Nouri al-Maliki :"Iraq is no longer a burden for its neighbours, the USA, or the UN Security Council "

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Nouri al-Maliki :"Iraq is no longer a burden for its neighbours, the USA, or the UN Security Council "

Nouri al-Maliki :"Iraq is no longer a burden for its neighbours, the USA, or the UN Security Council "
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Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussien who returned after the dictator fell to become the number two in the body that purged Baath party members from the state apparatus. He also waged war on terrorist networks within the country, bacoming prime minister in two thousand and six. A member of the Islamist Shi’ite Dawa party since the 1960’s, euronews met him in Baghdad to talk about his new domestic and international political strategies.

Aissa Bourkanoun, euronews: “Mr Prime Minister welcome to euronews.”

Nouri al-Maliki: “Thank you.”

euronews: “The national reconciliation project you’ve laid out is extremely ambitious, but 2 political parties have been excluded, the Baath party and the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. Don’t you think freezing them out could be a legal mistake?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “Reconciliation is not a limitless abstract concept. On the contrary, it’s based on constiutional foundations. The exclusion of the Baath party is written into the constitution. Article seven forbids its return, even under a changed name or leadership, to the electoral process. It is classified in Iraq as a racist and chauvinistic party. The Iraqi constitution bans any party founded on such precepts. We cannot contradict the constitution and be reconciled with a party that is constitutionally outlawed. The Baath party has a bloody history, and is considered as a terrorist party that encourages terrorism and sectarianism. As for the Association, it has legitimised sectarianism by waging war on other faiths. How can we be reconciled with an organisation that calls itself “scholarly” when it has preached the eradication of the Shi’ites, and called its followers infidels?”

euronews: “The Shi’ite spiritual leadership has said it will keep equal distance between itself and all political parties. What is your position towrds this religious institution and its impact on Iraqi politics?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “They provide a religious reference that adresses everyone. They must not make distinctions or favourise anyone, individuals or parties. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own point of view, or are not allowed to express it. When Iraq needs help or solutions they are always ready. It makes statements on how the state should run itself, and sectarianism, and it has helped in developing the constitution and democracy. They are engaged in a daily dialogue with all political parties, and no-one can say they have supported me personally, or played a role against anyone on my behalf. Now, it’s clear that today they support the political process, and are mobilising the people to participate in elections and actively invest in the political process.”

euronews: “You have recently met with Turkey’s president and Iran’s foreign minister. Have they asked for anything from you?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “Yes. They were keen for us to develop and expand our bilateral ties, and in every area in which Iraq and our neighbours have mutual needs. It’s the network of our mutual interests that brings our states together. Turkey has very particular security concerns, and Iraq can help. Iran is in a similar situation and needs to have good relations with us, and we need Iran to make efforts for us.”

euronews: “What role is Iraq playing in the warming of political and strategic links between Iran and the USA?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “We performed this role on several occasions during the Bush administration. Iraq mediated several meetings between Iranian and American officials. The talks didn’t lead to anything unfortunately, but there’s little doubt they helped break the ice between them. But now that the new president Barack Obama has declared he wants a dialogue with Iran, no-one has asked us to mediate. If we are asked we will of course try and find a way to help them resolve their differences. Their conflict is not in their interests, and not in our region’s.”

euronews: “The first challenge facing your government is the withdrawal of US troops, and the security situation afterwards, especially as Iraq’s own forces are not yet ready to replace them.”

Nouri al-Maliki: “Iraq’s security forces have shown that they can do the job, in several battles and confrontations that they have commanded. Our soldiers performed well; they are strong, well-trained and active and can face any challenge. I don’t think there will be any challenges when the programmed withdrawal of American and allied forces is completed. Our forces are gaining in competance and strength, and another crucial factor helping stability and security is the solidarity and cohesion between the Iraqi people and their government. The withdrawal will not lead to any extraordinary security deterioration.”

euronews: “You have said that the UN must this summer revise all its decrees concerning Iraq since 1990. Which are the big decisions you want revised, above all the ones on security issues?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “I think they can all be cancelled. Some decisions were based on the fact that Iarq had nuclear and chemical weapons. UN inspections ran their course, and the file is closed. Certainly Iraq was a danger to its people, its neighbours, and the entire world, but that’s no longer the case today. All the decisions taken in the past and the international sanctions imposed are unnecessary today. Iraq is no longer a threat to peace and international security. The UN has stated that.”

euronews: “Iraq was a burden for President Bush. Do you think it will also be for President Obama?”

Nouri al-Maliki: “Certainly not. Iraq is no longer a burden for its neighbours, the USA, or the UN Security Council. Iraq is in good hands, in the hands of its children and the Iraqi people. The political process is working and has been thoroughly worked out. Even the security forces are up and running. Terrorists and their organisations are in retreat, and we will hunt them down and exterminate them. Now Iraq needs its children to accomplish our political and constitutional commitments. The world will have to turn to its other terrorist challenges, as the challenge of fighting terrorism in Iraq is now our entire responsibility.”