Discard sectarian govt or lose US support, Iraq told

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq has warned Iraqi politicians that they would lose U.S. support if they do not establish a genuine govt.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 15:22 IST

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has warned Iraqi politicians that they would risk the loss of U.S. support if they do not establish a genuine national government. The Ambassador added that America would not invest its resources in institutions run by sectarians.

The Ambassador spoke at a rare press conference after Iraqi politicians said that talks on a new government following the December elections were not going well, because of sharp differences among the country's Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political parties.

Failure to establish a unity government that includes a strong role for Sunni Arabs would fail to undermine the Sunni-dominated insurgency and highlight U.S. plans for the phased withdrawal of the 138,000-strong American troop here.

"Sectarian and ethnic conflict is the fundamental problem in Iraq," Khalilzad said. He added that it was time for the Iraqis to set aside sectarian and ethnic interests for the sake of the nation.

"Iraq is going through a period of state and nation building. The insurgency and terror that is part of the scene is a reflection of this conflict, he added."

He said that overcoming the sectarian and ethnic divide requires a government of national unity, which is "the difference between what exists now and what will be in the next government." The outgoing government is dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

Khalilzad bluntly warned the Shiites that key security ministries of Defence and Interior, which control the police, must be in the hands of people who are nonsectarian, broadly acceptable and not tied to militias.

Sunni Arabs accuse the Shiite-led Interior Ministry of human rights abuses and using Shiite militias against Sunni civilians under cover of fighting insurgency. Shiites meanwhile, deny the charge and say they must control security forces to protect Shiites against attacks by Sunni religious extremists.

The Ambassador spoke several hoursat a high-level meeting between Allawi, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraq's top Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 15:22 IST