Maliki has offer for man who outpolled him in Iraq

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Maliki has offer for man who outpolled him

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains at loggerheads with his chief rival, Ayad Allawi, over who will claim the country's top job after lawmakers elected last month are seated.

But on Friday, Maliki extended an olive twig to his nemesis, saying that Allawi's Iraqiya bloc, which won two more seats than Maliki's State of Law bloc, should be a key player in the next government.

Because political coalitions are free to redraw alliances now that the votes are counted, Allawi's bloc could conceivably be marginalized if Maliki's group manages to band together with other Shiite parties and the Kurdish coalition to gain enough seats to form a government.

Sunni leaders -- who mostly supported Allawi, a secular Shiite -- and U.S. officials call that scenario dangerous. They fear it would widen the sectarian divide and possibly spark a return to the Sunni-Shiite warfare that gripped the country several years ago.

Iraqi politicians say the political horse-trading is likely to drag on for months.

Maliki, who was interviewed on the U.S.-funded TV station al-Hurra, also said he would not attempt to lure swing blocs such as the Shiite Sadrists by ordering the release of detainees.

"I cannot do that," he said. "Unless you want me to be another Saddam Hussein."

-- Ernesto LondoƱo


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