Iraqi ex-PM expresses fear over violence as suicide blasts kill 7

By Paul Schemm, AP
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Former PM urges interim government in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The front-runner in Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections on Wednesday called for the formation of an internationally supervised caretaker government to prevent the country from sliding into violence, even as a double suicide blast killed seven in south Baghdad.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called for international involvement to stop what he called attempts to “steal” the election, while the blasts underlined worries that wrangling over the close vote could open the way for renewed sectarian violence.

The two car bombs exploded within five minutes of each other around sunset near a security checkpoint and a market place in the Shiite enclave of Abu Dashir, which is surrounded by the staunchly Sunni neighborhood of Dora.

Dora was once a stronghold of Al-Qaida in Iraq and the scene of fierce fighting involving U.S. troops.

Police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said that three were killed in the first blast and four in the second, while a total of 23 were wounded.

Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc bridged the sectarian divide to receive strong support from Sunnis in the March 7 election, winning 91 seats, a narrow 2-seat victory over the prime minister’s coalition. Now, however, a series of measures, including recounts and attempts to disqualify candidates, are threatening that lead.

An Iraqi court charged with investigating election-related complaints already disqualified one of his candidates over alleged ties to the former regime. Election officials confirmed that another nine winning candidates, including seven from Allawi’s list and one from al-Maliki’s, were being investigated.

The court’s ruling came at the urging of a commission charged with investigating politicians’ connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Election commission official Hamdiya al-Hussaini told The Associated Press that the court is expected to rule on the fate of the nine others by Monday.

If the seven Iraqiya candidates and their votes are thrown out, it could change the seat count in the new 325-member parliament and potentially hand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc the lead. That would likely enrage the country’s disenchanted Sunnis, who have felt marginalized by the Shiite-dominated government.

“Certainly what is going on is a theft of the Iraqi will and democracy, jeopardizing the safety of the country,” Allawi told Iraq’s al-Sharqiya channel. “We will call for the forming of a new interim government.”

Allawi called on international organizations like the U.N., the Arab League, the EU and the Organization of Islamic Conference to help establish the impartial interim government.

But a U.N. official in Baghdad dismissed the idea of the international community’s closer involvement in Iraqi politics, saying those disputes can only be resolved by Iraqis themselves.

“They don’t even want the Americans talking about internal Iraqi politics, can you imagine if the rest of the international community became involved?” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Iraqiya’s narrow victory was immediately assailed by al-Maliki. An elections court granted a State of Law request to recount the vote in Baghdad, which is expected to begin later this week. Al-Maliki’s alliance also was boosted by the Shiite-dominated Accountability and Justice Commission’s vetting panel, which had barred hundreds of candidates for alleged ties to Saddam’s Baath Party in the run-up to the election. Many of the disqualified candidates are believed to be Sunni.

Allawi said the commission is “illegal and illegitimate” and “works with no constitutional cover.”

Late Tuesday, Iraqiya held an urgent meeting and decided to send a letter to the head of the judiciary asking him to “step in to protect the Iraqi judiciary system from the political pressures.”

The fact that many of the commission’s recommendations have been approved and that the only recount granted so far was requested by al-Maliki has opened up the country’s judiciary to accusations of bias and partiality to the prime minister’s government.

Allawi warned that further delays in forming a new government only give “terrorists” the opportunity to kill more people in the country. During the months of negotiations to form the government after the December 2005 elections, violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded and brought the country to the brink of civil war.

The party statement also said this was Iraqiya’s “final warning, with spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Budeiri explaining that Iraqiya could consider quitting the political process or demand repeat elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday warned that any challenges to the election results should be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency to preserve people’s faith in the system.

“For challenges to be credible and legitimate they must also be transparent and must accord with the laws and mechanisms established for the conduct of the elections,” she said in a statement. “Transparency and due process are essential to protecting the integrity of the process and preserving the confidence of the Iraqi people in their democratic system.

Associated Press Writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

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