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Biden Tells Iraq to Form Gov't Months After Poll - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets with Ammar Al-Hakimright, head of the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 5, 2010. [AP]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets with Ammar Al-Hakimright, head of the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 5, 2010. [AP]

BAGHDAD (AFP) – US Vice President Joe Biden started a final push on Monday to persuade Iraq’s squabbling leaders to end their differences and form a government months after elections ushered in political deadlock.

Biden, on the third and final day of a visit to Baghdad, was to hold talks with the war-torn country’s President Jalal Talabani, after urging top politicians to “honour the trust” shown in them by Iraqi voters.

The US leader made his comments late Sunday after meetings with the two men whose feud over who as prime minister should lead Iraq’s new government has stymied efforts to advance its fledgling democracy.

Biden stressed Washington had no “hidden agenda” over the outcome of the dispute which has overshadowed a phased withdrawal of US combat troops after seven years of operations since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

He met first with Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister who narrowly beat incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki into second place in the March 7 election.

At an evening reception after the talks, the US leader appealed to them and other politicians to break the impasse.

“My plea to you is finish what you started,” Biden said in a speech that was quickly followed by several mortars landing in the Green Zone where the US embassy is based.

“In my humble opinion, in order for you to achieve your goals you must have all communities’ voices represented in this new government, proportionately.

“Iraqiya, State of Law, Iraqi National Alliance, the Kurdistan Alliance, all are going to have to play a meaningful role in this new government for it to work,” he said, referring to the country’s major political blocs.

Allawi, a Shiite, insists as the election’s narrow victor that he has the right to become premier, especially as his broadly secular Iraqiya coalition had strong backing in Sunni-dominated provinces.

He has also warned a failure to see Sunni voters’ properly represented in power could reignite the sectarian violence that saw tens of thousands killed.

A long period of relative calm has already been shattered in Anbar province, whose capital Ramadi was the scene of a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed at least four people and wounded 23 outside government offices.

Biden stressed real progress on hammering out a government could only be made if leaders put the national interest before all others.

“Subordinating individual interest is fundamental to the success of any nation,” he said.

“You should not, and I am sure you will not, let any state, or the United States or any state in the region dictate what will become of you all.”

Biden’s remarks came just hours after the firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called on Iraqi leaders not to be swayed by the United States.

“I advise Allawi and Maliki not to allow the occupier to intervene,” said Sadr, whose militia, the Mahdi Army, has repeatedly clashed with US forces since the invasion.

“The talks should ensure the Iraqi agenda, not the American agenda,” the Iran-based cleric said in a statement issued from his office in the holy city of Najaf in central Iraq.

Several hundred of Sadr’s supporters held a protest in Kufa, also central Iraq, against Biden’s visit.

A senior US administration official travelling with Biden, said the vice president had delivered a consistent message in his talks with Allawi and Maliki.

“We are not disengaging from Iraq, our engagement is changing. We are moving from a military lead to a civilian lead,” said the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He (Biden) made it very clear that we have no candidates, we have no preferred outcomes. There was no discussion of an American plan for Iraq because there isn’t one.”

There are currently 77,500 American soldiers in Iraq but all combat troops are due out by September 1, leaving the training and advisory force of 50,000 behind who are themselves scheduled to withdraw by December 2011.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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