TEHRAN, April 14: Iraq’s main Shia opposition group said on Monday it would boycott a US-sponsored meeting of Iraqi organizations in Iraq on Tuesday to map out the political future of the country.
A spokesman for the Iranian-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which draws its support from Shias, said the meeting in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya would be of not benefit to Iraqi people.
“We are not going to attend the Nassiriya meeting because it is not to the benefit of the Iraqi nation,” Abdelaziz Hakim, a SCIRI leader, said at a news conference.
“From the beginning, independence has been our manifesto. We don’t accept a US umbrella or anybody else’s. The Iraq nation refuses any dependency,” he said.
The Nassiriya meeting will be overseen by retired US General Jay Garner, head of a transitional administration charged with running Iraq.
Around 60 Iraqis are expected to attend, including representatives of Shia and Sunni groups, Kurds and the former monarchy, overthrown in 1958.
However, a SCIRI spokesman, Mohsen Hakim, said later that, as far as he knew, most other groups were not taking part or were just planning to send low-level representation.
He said the meeting should pick up from where one held in London in December left off, when around 330 delegates representing six groups agreed a political blueprint for the country’s future.
“We have to have some clear and specific structure to go by,” he said. “It is not correct to start from scratch. We have to continue the same process started in London and that has to be the basis. This meeting starting from zero will not solve any problems.”
CHALABI’S ABSENCE: The man tipped to be Iraq’s next leader will be noticeable by his absence at the meeting.
Ahmad Chalabi, in line to take power in Iraq after an interim administration, said on Sunday he would send a representative to the gathering.
But amid already extensive scepticism about US plans for remaking the country, Mr Chalabi — who has lived in exile most of his life — has backing from only parts of the US administration and remains an unknown quantity for most Iraqis.
“We don’t know him, I don’t think any Iraqi knows anything about him,” said Sheikh Abdul Hakim Sultan, a Shia religious leader in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah.
Another Iraqi, speaking at a local hospital, said: “We wanta leader who is from inside Iraq. Chalabi, we don’t know him.”
An internal feud has emerged in Washington between the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency on one side, and the Pentagon and parts of the White House on the other — much of it surrounding Mr Chalabi.
Ahmed Chalabi has riled the CIA and State Department — which only two weeks ago restored some funding to his Iraqi National Congress (INC) that had been suspended last year over management concerns — with his flamboyant style and pronouncements.—AFP
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