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Commentary: Interview: Abdel Aziz al-Hakim

Thursday, 16-Oct-2003 6:01AM PDT
Story from United Press International
Copyright 2003 by United Press International (via ClariNet)

The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has accused remnants of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Baath Party of trying to incite sectarian unrest in Iraq.

DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Abdel Aziz al-Hakim is also a member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed interim Governing Council.

Al-Hakim, who succeeded his slain brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, as SCIRI head said Iraqis did not need foreign troops to restore security and stability in their country. Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim was killed in a car bombing in the holy city of Najaf in August.

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Al-Hakim, who met Syrian President Bashar Assad during his first visit to Damascus after the war on Iraq, spoke to United Press International's Damascus correspondent Thanaa Imam.

UPI. You met President Bashar Assad and said afterward that Syria can play a role in Iraq. You did not rule out that it could be a security role. Did you discuss this with President Assad?

Al-Hakim: I discussed with President Assad all matters related to Iraq and I thanked him for his position vis-&224;-vis the Iraqi people and the assassination of Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim. I then briefed him on the developments and the need that Syria, which always stood by the Iraqi people, has a role in rebuilding Iraq and help the Iraqi people achieve their goals and carry out their main missions, principally the security issue. We should join efforts to solve this problem and it's possible that Syria and other countries play a role in this regard.

Q: Have you discussed with President Assad the possibility of sending Syrian troops to Iraq as part of an Arab or international force?

A: We don't believe that troops from outside Iraq could have an essential and important role in solving the security problem (in Iraq). This is a problem that the Iraqi people should solve in the first degree and not foreign forces. In fact, I did not discuss with Assad the issue of having Syrian or Arab forces in Iraq.

Q: How do you see the U.S.-proposed draft resolution on Iraq that is to be discussed at the U.N. Security Council and the amendments proposed by France, Germany and Russia?

A: The transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi Governing Council is a positive step in the right direction. All the countries ... (are calling) for (the transfer of) sovereignty to the Iraqi people so that they be responsible for solving their problems and run their affairs. But having a timetable for such a transfer should be done in ... coordination with the Iraqi Governing Council, which should be always consulted. ... I am in principle against setting a time or imposing dates on the Iraqi Governing Council (concerning transfer of sovereignty). The correct thing to do is to consult with the Governing Council to reach a specific formula and specific time.

Q: You said yesterday (Tuesday) that the U.S. forces should leave (Iraq) and you will pursue resistance until this time. Do you mean that you support the attacks against the U.S. occupation forces?

A: All Iraqis and all other people do not accept occupation and therefore the occupation forces should leave as soon as possible. We should work on ending the occupation and this is what we believed in the past and still believe. I will continue to work for ending the occupation but we don't believe that armed confrontation is the correct kind (of resistance) because it would lead to more problems and might be a reason for keeping the occupation a longer time.

Q: Do you think that there are internal or foreign parties or even the (U.S.) occupation forces pushing for unrest (in Iraq) especially after Tuesday's clash between rival Shiite followers of Ali Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr?

A: There are some pushing toward a sectarian strife. We warned the Iraqi people about that few weeks ago. There are indications that some are trying to create such an unrest. They are the followers of the old regime (of Saddam Hussein) and its remaining gang. They agreed not to have stability in Iraq and one of their last means is to provoke conflicts inside the same religious sect as well as between sects, ethnic groups and various entities (inside Iraq).

As for the Tuesday clash, I don't consider (it) as an internal struggle but a problem that took place at a time no one wishes such problems. According to our information, there are followers of the old regime who play a role in fueling what happened. There is no difference between Sunnis, Shiites and Turkmen. None of them want to harm the other. On the contrary, they want to maintain loving relations, coexistence and national unity. This does not mean that there will be no problems. Problems could happen every day in some areas because Iraq (now) suffers from a security problem along with a sovereignty vacuum.

Q: What about the suicide attack that targeted the Turkish Embassy on Tuesday in Baghdad?

A: Many of these operations are being carried out by terrorists. Of course, they are not morally acceptable because killing innocent people in that way resembles the assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. Those terrorists are the enemies of the Iraqi people and are determined to maintain such dirty means.