Allawi calls for Muslim unity in support of his government
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi urged Islamic countries Thursday to “stand as one group” against terrorists and voiced support for formation of Saudi-led Muslim force to help stabilize his country.
In Cairo, the Arab League said any such force would only be acceptable if ordered by the U.N. Security Council and linked to a specific timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
The Iraqi official told a news conference here that the region’s leaders should unify and “stand as one group” against “those gangs, those terrorists and those criminals” who he said are threatening the Arab world.
Allawi said that if the 15-month old insurgency in Iraq prevails, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon would not be safe. Allawi spoke a day after a militia attack 35 miles outside of Baghdad killed dozens in the deadliest attack since he took office a month ago from a U.S. governing authority.
With Secretary of State Colin Powell standing at his side, Allawi voiced support for a Saudi initiative under which Muslim countries would contribute to the creation of a new force that would help bring stability to Iraq.
Under the Saudi proposal, Arab and Muslim countries that do not border on Iraq would be invited to contribute. Iraq believes involvement by its immediate neighbors in the country’s security could ultimately lead to political conflicts with them.
“We look forward to the contribution of the Arab and the Islamic states with the exception of the neighboring states,” Allawi said.
Powell welcomed the Saudi initiative and said the time may be ripe for a more active role by Arab and Muslim countries based on the handover of sovereignty to Allawi, along with the approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution that gives legitimacy to his interim government.
“They now have a sovereign government that is up and running,” Powell said. “Based on that, there will be more intensive discussions on the basis of the Saudi initiative to see if more countries are willing to provide support.”
In Cairo, the Arab League’s Ali Hamid said that “a solution with the help of the international community is a good idea provided that the Americans declare they are going to withdraw and not involve NATO in Iraqi affairs.”
NATO diplomats have been meeting in Belgium to discuss whether and how the alliance should be involved in training missions in Iraq.
“Any force, provided it is mandated by the Security Council and the Americans’ clear commitment to withdraw from Iraq and to have a timetable for this withdrawal, I think the international community will cooperate with the Americans,” he said.
No Arab country is now a coalition participant and the numbers of Muslims in the coalition is believed to be scant. Politically, it would be far easier for Muslim countries to commit themselves as a group rather than individually.
Some of the countries mentioned as possible participants in a security force – Malaysia, Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Morocco – are from far outside the region. Pakistan is among the many countries that Iraqi officials have contacted in recent weeks.
The Arab League has been reluctant to confer legitimacy on the interim Iraq government because of the continuing U.S. troop deployment.
League spokesman Hossam Zaki said Wednesday the organization’s general stand was that any request for troops “should come from a legitimate Iraqi government, the force should not be part of the occupation of Iraq and should be authorized by a U.N. Security Council resolution and under U.N. leadership.”
Zaki indicated the league could not stop individual member states from sending troops to Iraq. He said members had reacted in different ways to the interim government’s call for troops.
In Islamabad, a senior Pakistani official told The Associated Press on Thursday that Pakistani Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain discussed the possibility of creating such a force during a visit to Saudi Arabia last week.
In Jakarta, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said Thursday, “Our position remains that any possible Indonesian involvement, including dispatching our military personnel to Iraq, has to be within and under a U.N. framework.”
The coalition membership has shrunk from 36 to 31 in recent weeks. Militants in Iraq kidnapped foreigners and committed other violent acts to force coalition members to abandon Iraq.