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Shiite Groups Announce New Alliance Minus Iraqi PM | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD, (AP) – Major Shiite groups have formed a new alliance that will exclude the Iraqi prime minister, lawmakers said Monday, a move likely to stoke fears of increasing Iranian influence and set back efforts to end sectarian politics ahead of January parliamentary elections.

The alliance will include the largest Shiite party, the Iranian-backed Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc and some Sunni and secular independents.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party won’t be included because of disagreement over who would lead the alliance, Shiite lawmaker Reda Jawad Taqi told The Associated Press. He said a last-minute meeting held Sunday in a bid to bring al-Maliki’s Dawa party into the coalition had failed to overcome the differences.

The coalition will likely be led by the Supreme Council if Dawa stays out, something that would likely deepen Iranian influence in Iraq just as U.S. forces begin to withdraw. The last American soldier is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

The announcement was a new blow to al-Maliki, whose efforts to portray himself as a champion of security has been battered by a series of devastating bombings in Baghdad and in northern Iraq in recent weeks. The most recent of these struck the foreign and finance ministries on Wednesday, killing about a 100 people and wounding about 500.

The uptick in violence has heightened fears that Iraqi security forces aren’t ready to protect the people nearly two months after most U.S. troops pulled back from urban areas.

Monday’s announcement also was a major shakeup in Shiite politics, which have long been dominated by the Supreme Council and al-Maliki’s party.

The coalition will replace the United Iraqi Alliance, which won control of parliament in the December 2005 elections but began to unravel later with the withdrawal of two major factions and bitter rivalry between al-Maliki and the Supreme Council.

Members of the groups joining the list stood one-by-one at a press conference to announce the new list.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari read a statement, noting that the ailing leader of the Supreme Council, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, was absent because he has been hospitalized in Iran.

“We wished that al-Hakim could be with us, but he is sick,” al-Jaafari said. “We pray he will feel better soon but he will be with us spiritually,” al-Jaafari said. Al-Hakim was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007.

He said the new alliance would be focused on establishing economic health and security in Iraq.

Also absent was al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran. His bloc was represented by lawmakers and officials.