Iraq's Kurds and Sunnis reaffirmed on Thursday, March 2, opposition to the nomination of outgoing Shiite Premier Ibrahim Jaafari to keep the post in the new cabinet, dealing a blow to ongoing talks on government formation. "The Kurdish and the Sunni groups think that he is not appropriate and they cannot form a cabinet with him as he is not neutral," Mahmud Othman, a senior Kurdish lawmaker, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Jaafari was re-selected for the post of premier last month by the dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which won 128 of the 275 parliamentary seats in the December general elections. "The Kurdish and the Sunni lists will ask the Shiite list to revise their decision about him as the PM candidate," added Othman, whose Kurdish coalition got 53 seats in the new parliament.
"The prime minister should be somebody who is agreed upon by everyone. They (Kurds and Sunnis) have decided to talk to Shiites on this in the next couple of days," he said. Jaafari won the nomination by just one vote over incumbent Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi. The Iraqi constitution specifies that the prime minister be selected by the leading party in parliament.
The Kurdish lawmaker said that Jaafari is seen as unsuccessful. He asserted that Kurdish and Sunni leaders "think the experience with him has not been good and may lead to similar problems in future." Jaafari had come under strong criticism from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for holding talks this week in Turkey without prior approval from other members of the caretaker government.
Last October, Talabani accused Jaafari of breaking an agreement between the ruling Shiite UIA and the Kurdish alliance and overly dominating the government. The main Sunni political coalition also reaffirmed opposition to the candidacy. "We have nothing against him (Jaafari) but his performance has been below expectations," said Alaa Maki, a senior leader of Islamic Party, which is part of the National Concord Front (NCF).
"He was unable to control the security situation... and what has happened in the last few days is a proof of what we have said," he told AFP, referring to a surge in sectarian violence across Iraq that has left hundreds dead after the bombing of a celebrated Shiite shrine in northern Iraq. Last week, Sunni leaders boycotted government formation talks to protest reprisal attack against Sunni mosques and properties across Iraq.
Maki said Jaafari should go and give his seat to "someone competent." "It is not a Sunni question," Maki said. "It is a question of Iraq and we have to be unified and have a common goal. Even the Shiite alliance understands that it is a political question and not a sectarian," he said. The Sunni NCF and the National Dialogue Front command 55 seats in the legislature.
The Kurdish MP said former prime minister Iyad Allawi, who has 25 seats in the new parliament, has also raised objections to Jaafari's candidature. Allawi, a secular Shiite, accused Jaafari's outgoing government of being responsible for forming death squads and setting up secret torture centers in the war-torn country. Allawi, who gained a reputation as a tough politician with security as his main trump card, had also accused Jaafari government of allowing powerful militias to hold sway, posing a threat to communal harmony in the country.
Shiite leaders, however, rejected the Kurdish and Sunni position, stressing support to the Shiite politician. "It is an internal affair of the Alliance and the decision to change the candidate is our prerogative. Even if other groups come to us with requests, we will not even discuss it," said outgoing Transportation Minister Salam al-Maliki. Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffak Rubaie also said Jaafari's selection would stand. "We would like our partners to respect our decision," he said.
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