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Iraqi Leaders Attack Plans for Interim Rule

May 19, 2003

By Charles Clover in Baghdad & Guy Dinmore in Washington
The Financial Times

Published: May 19 2003

Relations between US forces and political groups in Iraq deteriorated further on Monday as local politicians lambasted US plans for a toothless interim authority and thousands of Shia demonstrators marched through Baghdad protesting against “occupation” by coalition forces.

Turkey, an uneasy ally of the US, also expressed its concern about political developments as well as violence in the northern city of Kirkuk, where at least 10 people were killed at the weekend in clashes between Kurds and Arabs. The deaths were apparently linked to town council elections planned for later this week.

Iraqi politicians negotiating with the US to form an interim authority said they were taken by surprise by US plans announced last week to keep it as a largely advisory body concerned with constitutional and legal reform, leaving the day-to-day governing of Iraq to US and UK administrators.

Western diplomats insist this was the plan all along, though Iraqi groups accuse them of betraying promises of self-government made at the start of the war. Western officials also cite the breakdown in law and order as a reason for moving slowly with the transition to self-rule.

An Iraqi oil ministry official quoted by Reuters said that, because of security problems and looting, an oil production target of 1.3m barrels a day had been pushed back, for a third time, to mid-July.

Hoshyar Zebari, of the Kurdistan Democratic party, one of two main Kurdish groups involved in the negotiations, said that stripping the interim authority of control over ministries would discourage his party from fully participating in the political process.

“Our message is the following,” he said. “If you want to take us as your partner in the reconstruction of Iraq we are going to work with you. If you want to do it all by yourself, well you can go ahead, but without us.”

He warned that many political groups in Iraq had local bases of support, such as the Kurds in the north, and would be encouraged to seek local power “on their own turf” rather than participate in a national government that was devoid of power. “We can’t afford for everyone to start calling for their own turf,” he said.

“We will continue to call for a representative government. If these efforts fail, maybe everyone will start to think about their self-interest. This is the nightmare scenario that nobody wants to think about.”

Baghdad’s Shia leaders also criticised US plans for the interim authority. Kasim Sahlani, head of the political bureau of the Da’awa party, a Shia group that has been negotiating with the coalition on the interim authority, said his party would form its own interim national council if it could not have an Iraqi-led representative government.

He said: “It is in the interest of the coalition forces, as well as the interest of the Iraqi people, for the coalition to keep their promises. That is for them not to interfere in th e future political process in Iraq. . . If the coalition insists on an occupation, we will struggle against it, we will struggle peacefully at first.”

Faruk Logoglu, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, expressed his concern over political trends and violence in Iraq, saying the Kurds appeared to be establishing a “position of pre-eminence” in Kirkuk. Speaking to business leaders, he urged the US to stop any moves that could threaten Iraq’s “territorial integrity and political unity”.

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