Iraqi Official Warns Against Coup Attempt

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By Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 29, 2006

BAGHDAD, July 28 -- A Shiite Muslim political leader said Friday that rumors were circulating of an impending coup attempt against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and warned that "we will not allow it."

Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament from Iraq's most powerful political party, said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf that "some tongues" were talking about toppling Maliki's Shiite-led government and replacing it with a "national salvation government, which we call a military coup government." He did not detail the allegation.

A new government would mean "canceling the constitution, canceling the results of the elections and going back to square one . . . and we will not accept that," he said. Amiri is also a top official in the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading member of a coalition of Shiite political parties governing Iraq.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that four Marines were killed Thursday in unspecified "enemy action" in the restive western province of Anbar. The names of the four Marines -- three assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and one from Regimental Combat Team 5 -- were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

In a sermon at the Fatimy mosque in Najaf, Sadr al-Din al-Qubanchi also spoke about coup rumors. "We should go on with the political process in building a new Iraq," the preacher said, "and there is no space for thinking about a national salvation government or a military or a political coup."

Amiri's comments came during an event commemorating the third anniversary of the death of a respected ayatollah, Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim, who was assassinated in a car bomb attack in Najaf not long after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Hakim's younger brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, also spoke at the ceremony.

Hakim called on Iraqis to take on greater responsibility for securing the country, to set up neighborhood defense committees, and to establish greater autonomy in a region of nine provinces in southern and central Iraq, a predominantly Shiite area.

Hakim said that the "experience of Kurdistan" -- a largely autonomous region in northern Iraq -- "is a pioneering experience" and that "a serious movement should be made in that direction."

Also Friday, the day when many attend religious services, four people were killed and nine injured when a bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in southeastern Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. military provided more information about a clash with Shiite militiamen on Sunday in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad. U.S. troops, along with Iraqi soldiers and police, killed 33 insurgents in the day-long battle, the U.S. military said in a statement. The U.S. troops came under gunfire and "rocket-propelled attack" when they entered the downtown area and responded with the assistance of Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks.

"Thugs and criminals tried to take over Musayyib, but they failed because the Iraqi army and police are unbeatable when they work together," Col. John Tully, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said in the statement.

Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi and Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.


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