Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology" v
Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology"
BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1330 gmt 30 Oct 05
October 31, 2005 Monday
Iraq's Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology"
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Iraqi National Congress Ahmad Chalabi said on 30 October that he had split from the United Iraqi Alliance list since there was a need for a list to represent Muslims who believed in "a democratic, pluralistic and federal system of government" but who did not subscribe to a political Islamist ideology. Speaking in a live interview from Baghdad on Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV's "Noon Guest" programme, Chalabi said that the United Iraqi Alliance had adopted an Islamist stance which was not compatible with the views of the people he represented. Other issues discussed included an invitation to Chalabi to visit the US and the withdrawal of multinational forces. The 18-minute interview was conducted by Jumanah Nammur in the Doha studio.
Leaving United Iraqi Alliance
Nammur began by asking him about the reasons which prompted him to walk out of the United Iraqi Alliance [UIA] and form another coalition. He replied: "The UIA was established at a certain era in the political history of Iraq when circumstances called for a strong and unified list that could push the political process forward and enact a constitution that was approved by the Iraqi people in a public referendum." He added: "Now that the constitution has been approved, praise be to God, it is obvious that there is a need for a list that represents a large cross-section of Iraqi people, who are faithful Muslims and who also believe in a democratic, pluralistic and federal system of government. They respect the religious authority but they do not recognize the political Islamist ideology."
Asked why he did not stay with the United Iraqi Alliance, he said: "This section could have been strongly and clearly represented in the United Iraqi Alliance as in the past, but the political circumstances of the parties joining the alliance dictated the need to form another list representing this political segment, which does not have a place in the United Iraqi Alliance at this stage."
The presenter asserted that Chalabi had been dismissed from the United Iraqi Alliance, to which he responded: "This, of course, is wrong and far from reality. It has nothing at all to do with what happened. We held negotiations with them and what you said did not happen."
Asked what prompted him to leave the UIA, he said: "The question is whether there was a place in the alliance for a strong viewpoint expressing the segment I have mentioned to you. The overwhelming majority of parties in the alliance believe that an Islamic ideology should rule Iraq. These parties preferred to adhere to this identity and we decided to have another list."
On whether the UIA preferred to enter the elections "with one colour", he said: "Yes, the alliance's colour now is Islamic. It is an alliance which believes in a government based on Islamic ideology."
Asked about Shi'i cleric Al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani's "neutral attitude" towards the next elections, Chalabi said: "Ayatollah Al-Sistani is fully aware of the situation of the Iraqi society and the Iraqis in general. During the first meeting I had with him in May 2003, he told me the constitution must be enacted by an elected Iraqi body in a sovereign country. This is what took place. He deemed it necessary to support the elections and alliance at that time. Now, however, he believes that it is in the interest of Iraq and the people here to stress that he neither interfered in politics nor prefers one party to another. This is an important and strong message that will boost political pluralism in Iraq."
National Congress Coalition
At this point in the programme the presenter reminded viewers that Chalabi had formed an independent list called "the National Congress for Iraq [sometimes referred to as National Congress Coalition]" and said "it also includes the monarchists, led by Al-Sharif Ali Bin-al-Husayn, small parties, and two ministers in the current government". She then asked him about the issues that were taken into consideration when this list was formed. He said: "The Iraqi National Congress list was formed on the basis of the principles for which the Iraqi National Congress was established. These principles are toppling the dictatorship; establishing a federal, democratic, pluralistic and parliamentary system of government; respecting the freedom of the individual in Iraq; drawing up practical programmes for economic development in Iraq; addressing Iraq's financial and economic problems; defending human rights and the rights of women; and liquidating the traces of the former regime in Iraq in the financial and economic fields."
When asked about the results he expected from the next elections, he said he could not tell in advance, but that his list was "strong" and would win parliamentary seats in the next elections. Asked if he expected a fierce electoral battle, he said: "Yes, there will be an electoral battle and everyone will work hard to explain their plans, but everyone will remain friends and partners in building the Iraqi state. The strength of the electoral battle will not undermine relations between the various parties, which fought to topple dictatorship and which are now trying to rebuild Iraq."
US visit invitation
Asked about the "US State Department's invitation" to him to visit Washington, he said: "I have received an invitation from the US government to visit Washington to discuss issues related to bilateral relations and the situation in Iraq. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called me a few days ago and we discussed the successful accomplishment made - that is the people's approval of the constitution - and other issues that will be discussed during the visit."
The presenter then said: "Some wondered about the background of this invitation, especially since some news media had in the past gone so far as to call you the Pentagon's favourite man in Iraq. They are now wondering about this renewed relationship with the State Department." Responding, he said: "This is old news that is two years old. We have relations with the US government and we do not get into the details of the parties with which we work. We have always sought to liberate Iraq from Saddam Husayn's regime and establish a federal, democratic and pluralistic system of government in Iraq. We also look forward to establishing a good and strategic relationship with the United States, which helped the Iraqi people get rid of the former regime."
Asked why he had not paid any official visit to the United States for over a year, he said: "I stayed in Iraq for 18 months because circumstances required me to stay here and work in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq to deal with the hot issues which continue to have an impact on the country. Developments have now taken place in our relations with all parties, particularly the United States. In view of my position in the government now, there was cooperation and progress in the files for which I was responsible. The US government deems it appropriate now to discuss these issues with the Iraqi government and I will go there in my capacity as the person in charge of these files."
Asked on which issues progress had been made, he said: "These are the issues of energy, contracts, oil by-product subsidies, agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and the security situation. All these are Iraqi issues in which I am involved."
Withdrawal of multinational forces
A question sent to the programme by a viewer asked if Chalabi expected a date for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq and if Iraq would continue to be united after the withdrawal. Responding, he said: "I believe that the Iraqi people's will to keep Iraq united will exceed all expectations to the contrary. The Iraqi people adhere to this unity and the constitution enhances this unity. Article 109 of the constitution says oil and gas in Iraq are the property of all Iraqis in all governorates. This means the wealth is for all. There are many clauses in the constitution on bolstering the unity of Iraq.
"As for the multinational forces, I would like to say that Iraq now needs international support within the framework of the United Nations in order to defend itself and protect its land from inside and outside dangers. Iraq is surrounded by six countries and these countries have three million soldiers and no less than 10,000 tanks and 2,000 warplanes. Iraq does not possess any of this now. The Iraqi army has collapsed and ceased to exist after the fall of Saddam's regime. We are now in the process of building the Iraqi armed forces. In order to be able to build these forces - and we are moving forward in this direction - we need international assistance to maintain security and defend Iraq. We seek to do so quickly. I was among those who called for enhancing Iraqi sovereignty and organizing relations between Iraq and the multinational forces. This will continue and be further enhanced in the future, God willing."