Q& A with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sat down with The Washington Post's Leila Fadel in the midst of a dispute over who will form the new government following the March 7 elections. Maliki, a Shiite who leads the State of Law bloc, hopes to form the next government despite losing the popular vote to former prime minister Ayad Allawi. Allawi, a secular Shiite who leads a faction called Iraqiya, received much of his support from Sunni and secular Iraqis. Maliki's group has struck a tentative deal for building a governing coalition with the Iraqi National Alliance, a group dominated by followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Here are selected portions of the interview, as translated by special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim:
How confidant are you that you will be the next prime minister?
Maliki: The candidate of the State of Law [Maliki] is the one with the better chance. Many achievements were linked to State of Law. Iraq will remember that the State of Law, and its candidate, was there when the body of the state collapsed entirely but came back to be coherent. This does not mean that we see that the others have no right to the prime minister's seat. If they managed to achieve the required quorum, we will support them within the rules of the democratic constitutional game. If they achieve the required numbers, we will congratulate and back them. We also wish that if we were to achieve the required numbers and support, they would stand by our side and help us, so that it would not be like the former government, which came under pressure by certain blocs in parliament.
It was difficult in the beginning of your rule?
Maliki: We had no country in 2006-2007. Almost all roads were cut off between Baghdad and the provinces, and even inside Baghdad itself. Today, the state has returned to a state of normalcy, the markets are open, and investment and reconstruction go on. Our orientation is to rebuild the country on a democratic basis, and we want to complete what we have achieved on the road to democracy.
Why is it that every time there is an agreement to meet with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, it is postponed?
Maliki: I said to them if the meeting is to take place it should be based on a certain program or a dialogue. They said, 'No, we only want a meeting and pictures.' In fact, I find that this has no benefit, but still I do not reject that. If any person wishes to visit me he would be welcome, but I feel the country is in need of a dialogue. Why are they refusing that and only want a visit and take some pictures? The road is still open, and I would welcome him and any delegation from Iraqiya. We have informed them if you come with a delegation for talks and negotiations you are welcome. Even if Dr. Allawi wanted to come and visit me, he is welcome. I have no enmity or estrangement with him.
I only want to say there were no dates which were revoked by me at all. No date was ever set, but they only talk of these in the media.
He said that he asked for a meeting with you several times, but it did not happen?
Maliki: He wants this type of a meeting only for the sake of picture taking. His cousin was here. I said to him welcome, but what are we meeting for? He said we don't want a dialogue; we want only a meeting with pictures. Still we said you are welcome.
Will you work with Iraqiya?