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Iraqi Powers Link Dialogue to Pullout Timetable
BAGHDAD, May7 , 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – The second anti-occupation conference in Iraq rejected on Saturday, May7 , any talks with the new government unless it clearly seeks a timetable for the withdrawal of the US-led occupation forces.
“We want an official and clear timetable for the withdrawal guaranteed by the United Nations and neutral international bodies,” said Harith Al-Dari, the Secretary General of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) and a member of the conference’s secretariat-general.
“Only then, we will offer our hands to the government, otherwise we will carry on with our peaceful opposition until we achieve our goal,” he said, adding that the Iraqi people do not expect the withdrawal overnight.
“The Iraqi people are rejecting the US-led occupation,” stressed the leader of the AMS, the highest Sunni religious authority in Iraq.
He said anti-occupation powers have countered government claims that the pullout of US-led occupation troops would spark a civil war.
“We frequently told them that the intervention of the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) would help achieve independence and stability,” said the prominent Iraqi scholar.
“If not, the Iraqi army, which is well-trained and respected by all ethnic groups, can be reinstated to take over.”
The conference, which was hosted by the Bar Association in Baghdad, brought together a cohort of Sunni and Shiite figures along with ambassadors of different Arab countries.
Slogans like “Get Out of Our Country,” “Invaders…Go Home,” and “One Country, One People and One Army,” were emblazoned across the conference room.
In their first conference, which was held on February15 , the anti-occupation powers set their own conditions to join the political landscape, chiefly a pullout timetable.
Calling the US-led occupation “the mother of all problems in Iraq,” Dari said the failure of setting such a timetable is an insult to all Iraqis.
“It will marginalize all Iraqis, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkomans and Christians alike, and play well into the hands of the occupiers and their proxies,” he told the conference.
The AMS leader continued: “Cabinet posts and titles are insignificant if they were meant to marginalize the Iraqis of variant ethnic backgrounds.
“Those cabinet ministers are, in effect, helpless and powerless and do not represent the people on the street.”
Iraqi sources said Saturday that Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari agreed on who will be the country's new defense and oil ministers, breaking an impasse which prevented the full cabinet from being sworn.
They told Reuters that Saadoun Al-Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab, would be the new defense minister, while Ibrahim Bahr Al-Uloum, a Shiite, would take the key oil ministry.
Shiite and Kurdish leaders, who won the parliamentary elections and have the lion’s share of portfolios, have promised to give key cabinet posts to Sunni Arabs.
There are only 17 Sunni Arab lawmakers in the275 -member parliament.
The majority of Sunnis did not cast ballot in the polls, citing lack of transparency and fair play under the US occupation, with the AMS championing the boycott call.
The anti-occupation conference’s secretary general, Shiite scholar Mohammad Mahdi Al-Khalsi, said the conference is also aimed at preserving Iraq’s national unity.
“We will stand firmly in the face of all crimes in a patriotic and Islamic spirit,” he pledged.
Dari stressed, meanwhile, that fighting terrorism, enhancing security and resisting the US-led occupation cannot justify the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians.
“The Iraqis will eventually rebel against the new dictators who unjustifiably shed civilian blood,” he said.
The AMS leader warned that conspiracies are concocted against Iraq under the cloak of US-led occupation.
“They all serve the US-Zionist scheme in the region,” he said, urging the Iraqi people to act in unison.
“This conference constitutes a bulwark against such malicious schemes.”
The bodies of fourteen Iraqi Sunnis, who were shot dead and left at a Baghdad garbage dump, were found on Friday.
The AMS published the names of the 14 victims, all from one of Iraq's most powerful tribes. Some were brothers, according to Reuters.
Mainly Shiite and Kurdish Iraqi police and army forces have been a target of frequent attacks since reformation under the US-led occupation.
Leading Shiite figures have recently welcomed an initiative put forward by a prominent Sunni scholar to foster national unity and head off looming sectarian strife.