London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saleh al-Mutlaq, whose National Dialogue Front is an important part of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, has revealed that current Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki offered him the Iraqi Presidency in return for withdrawing from the Iraqiya bloc and joining his State of Law coalition.
Speaking from Amman yesterday, Saleh al-Mutlaq told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I met with Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the former speaker of the Iraqi parliament, who informed me that he was acting as a representative of al-Maliki. He offered me the greetings of the Prime Minister and asked me to split from the Iraqiya bloc and join the State of Law coalition.” Al-Mutlaq revealed that “al-Mashhadani conveyed to me that al-Maliki was offering me any position that I could want in the next government, starting with the Presidency.”
Al-Mutlaq told Asharq Al-Awsat “I informed al-Mashhadani that they should not expect or work to create any split in the Iraqiya bloc because it is cohesive, and we are working to implement a national program that we have agreed upon, namely a national program of change to save Iraq and the Iraqi people. Our presence [in the Iraqiya bloc] is not in order to secure positions, and we do not talk about or make promises regarding governmental positions, for this is not what concerns us, but rather we are concerned with the situation in Iraq.”
Al-Mutlaq added “I informed al-Mashhadani that any talk or offers about governmental positions in the forthcoming government must take place with the Iraqiya bloc rather than with myself personally…and that we are not going to split for there is a national coalition and program that we respect, and it is important for us that it [the Iraqiya bloc] takes up its constitutional entitlement as the coalition that won votes by promising change.”
In addition to this, Haidar al-Abadi, a senior member of the Islamic Dawa party which belongs to Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, and Osama al-Nujaifi, a senior member of the Iraqiya bloc that is led by Iyad Allawi, agreed upon “the presence of rapprochement between the two blocs, and that there should be continuous dialogue between members of both blocs” according to al-Nujaifi. He said that this was in order to reach a formula for an alliance to form a large parliamentary bloc to unite with the Kurdish Alliance and form the next Iraqi government.
Al-Nujaifi also indicated that “the process of arranging a meeting between the leaders of the Iraqiya bloc and the State of Law coalition, Allawi and al-Maliki, is still ongoing, and I believe that this will take place after the completion of the manual re-count of the Baghdad votes.”
Dawa Party spokesman Haidar al-Abadi told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Baghdad yesterday that “I have no comment on any private meeting [between al-Maliki and Allawi], but I will say that there are numerous and continuous meetings on all levels between members of both blocs.”
He added “there are good ideas for an agreement but these have not reached the final stages, and I would [also] like to confirm that any agreement with the Iraqiya bloc will not come at the expense of agreements with other blocs, most importantly among these [blocs] is the National Iraqi Alliance and others. Rather any agreement with the Iraqiya bloc will move forward in parallel with our agreement with the National Iraqi Alliance, and this is in order to form a large parliamentary bloc, and the same also applies to the Kurdish Alliance.”
The senior member of the State of Law coalition told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are “external and internal opponents who oppose reaching a final agreement with the National Iraqi Alliance. With regards to the external dispute, it is the right of any bloc to nominate any number of those they believe are worthy [as candidates] for the premiership of the next government, whether they nominate 3 or 5 candidates, and we cannot impose the number of candidates that another bloc can nominate…they have the right to nominate whoever and however many candidates they like. At the same time we have the right to forward one candidate or five candidates, and then agree upon a mechanism to choose a prime minister.”
Al-Abadi also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the internal or genuine dispute is that the National Iraqi Alliance wants us to put forward more than one candidate for the premiership, and if we put forward two or three candidates they will tell us that there is an alternative to our original candidate Mr. Nuri al-Maliki. They want us to reach a stage where we will say that yes there is an alternative, and this is due to the presence of a bloc within the National Iraqi Alliance that objects to al-Maliki. This is something that we reject; nobody can reject [or veto] anybody else, we will put forward candidates and discuss the mechanism [for choosing the Prime Minster], this is the premise.”
The senior member of the State of Law coalition added “the Sadrist trend is not talking now about rejecting any name [for prime minister] and immediately after the election results we informed our brothers in the Sadrist trend they do not have a veto on al-Maliki, but their actions show that they want to put pressure on us to offer more concessions.”
Al-Abadi also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “until now the issue of who will be Prime Minister has not been discussed, and we have not yet reached this stage, and we believe that this will not be a problem. We do not discuss the issue of governmental positions including that of the presidency, although we welcome the nomination of president Jalal al-Talabani, however the story is far from over.”
As for whether he expects a change in the election results following the manual recount, al-Abadi said that “we expect a change in the [election] results, but we are not counting on this, and this is not part of our calculations with regards to our dialogue with the other blocs. The results will be revealed, and regardless of any changes…what is needed is the formation of a national partnership government. 163 [parliamentary] seats are needed to form a government, but we will need more than this in order to form a comfortable majority, therefore I say that we are not looking at the results in our discussions with the other blocs for in all cases we will return to square one, which is forming alliances.”
For his part, senior Iraqiya bloc member Osama al-Nujaifi said that “the meeting between Allawi and al-Maliki will take place in the next few days, and that this is based upon the manual recount of the Baghdad votes, and we do not believe any negotiations to form alliances will take place prior to this.”
Al-Nujaifi added “there is a great hope for an alliance between the Iraqiya bloc and the State of Law coalition, and this will help the participation of the Kurds to form a government in cooperation with the rest of the blocs.” He added “Our allying with the State of Law coalition has become a popular demand.”