London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Various Iraqi political groups were unanimous in rejecting the Iranian interference in the provincial council elections that were held on Saturday and called for taking necessary measures against this act. These stands were taken after the Iranian consul in Basra Governorate, Nasir Baghban, tried illegally to enter an election centre in the Al-Jubaylah district in central Basra.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry described the Iranian consul’s act in Basra as unacceptable and incompatible with the diplomatic norms, while the official spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Baghdad said he has no knowledge of the Iranian consul’s attempt to enter an election centre in Basra.
Speaking from Baghdad by telephone yesterday in reply to a question by Asharq Al-Awsat on Iranian consul Baghban’s behavior, a member of the Higher Independent Elections Commission, Iyad al-Kinani, said: “The commission allows international observers from the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, international and Iraqi civil society organizations, and representatives of states and foreign ministries to monitor the election process and visit election centers, provided that they secure official authorization and a badge from the commission.”
He added: “Some diplomats asked to see the election process as observers, and they were given permissions in advance and badges, in order to impart more transparency to the elections.”
Al-Kinani said: “With regard to the Iranian consul, however, after we talked to the office of the Higher Independent Elections Commission in the Basra Governorate, it transpired that he (the consul) tried to enter an election centre in the Al-Jubaylah area. Indeed, he crossed the wall of the school that served as an election centre.”
Al-Kinani added: “When officials in charge of the centre who are members of the commission asked the consul to produce official documents that allow him to enter the centre, such as an authorization from the commission and a badge from us, it turned out that he did not carry such documents and that he was not legally authorized to enter the centre. After the election centre officials contacted the commission’s office in Basra, they asked him to leave the centre because he was not officially authorized to observe the elections.”
The member of the Higher Independent Elections Commission went on: “Indeed, the Iranian consul was driven out of the election centre, and he went in his car to other election centers without being able to enter them.”
Speaking from Baghdad by telephone yesterday to answer a question by Asharq Al-Awsat on Iranian consul Baghban’s action, the official spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, Amir Arshadi, said: “To begin with, we have no information that the Iranian consul visited an election centre in Basra.” Arshadi added: “If he did, he must have carried a permit or an official authorization from the Iraqi authorities concerned as a member of the oversight committee or as an international observer of elections.”
Arshadi noted: “The elections are an Iraqi internal affair, and Iran does not interfere in it unless, as I said, an official permit is secured from the elections commission.”
For his part, Iraqi Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Labid Abawi said if it is confirmed that the Iranian consul attempted to enter polling centers, this is “an act incompatible with the diplomatic norms and unacceptable.”
He added: “This is a rejected act and interference in Iraqi internal affairs. No diplomat is allowed to tour election centers without prior permission. Any diplomat must secure a permit in advance as an observer, as did some diplomats who asked to be authorized as observers. As for the behavior of the consul, a diplomat, it is unacceptable and incompatible with the diplomatic norms.”
Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians to whom Asharq Al-Awsat spoke denounced the Iranian consul’s behavior. Maysun al-Damluji, member of the Iraqi House of Representatives, the Parliament, who represents the Iraqi List, which is led by [former Prime Minister] Iyad Allawi, called for the expulsion of the Iranian consul from Basra.
She said: “This act is not allowed. We regard this act as a direct interference in the election process.” She added: “Iran is not contented with violations against the Iraqi border, oil, and water, and it now wants to directly interfere in the election results.”
For his part, the leader of the Iraqi Tribes List, Hamid al-Hayis, described the Iranian consul’s behavior as “a disgraceful act and interference in Iraqi internal affairs that does not befit the diplomatic norms.”
He said: “This is what we warned against in the past when we said that a neighboring state attempts to pay bribes, and the Iranian consul’s act falls under this category. It is a rejected behavior because it is a violation against Iraqi sovereignty and interference in the country’s affairs.”
He added: “We, as the tribes of Iraq, do not allow such violations against our country at all.”
Meanwhile, the leader of the Virtue Party Bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Hasan al-Shammari, said: “The Foreign Ministry will be asked to conduct an investigation into this incident if we become sure that it illegally took place. If this behavior by the Iranian consul is confirmed, we will demand an investigation into the incident when the parliament begins its sessions.”
The leader of the Iraqi Al-Tawafuq Front, Adnan al-Dulaymi, added his voice to those who rejected “this behavior.” He said: “This is interference in Iraqi affairs, and we reject such interference. In the name of the Al-Tawafuq Front, we reject this behavior.”