Former Iraqi PM calls Arab League for conference

Allawi said he wants Arab countries to help Iraq set up an Iraqi "striking force" against militias.

Ayad Allawi 298.88 (photo credit: [file])
Ayad Allawi 298.88
(photo credit: [file])
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is canvassing support from key Arab governments for a regional conference that he said would bring stability through drastic changes to the country's political process. Allawi said he wants Arabs to send in troops to Iraq and to help set up an Iraqi "striking force" that would disarm the militias and other violent groups in the beleaguered nation. The proposal indicates the secular politician's intention to stay a part of Iraq's mainstream politics despite his diminishing power base in the deeply sectarian society. "We want to bring all the concerned parties and make them sit at one table and work together to end the Iraqi problem," Allawi told a group of Egyptian analysts and writers during a stop in Cairo late Saturday. He said the current political process "has been buried." Allawi said his proposal includes a conference that would bring together main Iraqi groups, Iraq's neighbors and other regional players to try to end the nearly four years violence that is tearing the country apart. He said among suggestions he is making to Arab leaders is to have them help set up a "strong security, military and intelligence apparatus that would be able confront the militias." Striking on moderate Arab government's worries about increasing Iranian influence in Iraq, Allawi also warned that Tehran was "interfering forcefully" in Iraq and suggested the proposed conference deal with other regional issues. "They are all entangled, so let us sit and untangle them," he said without elaborating. Allawi, a former exile and surgeon who was once a member of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, became postwar Iraq's first prime minister in 2004 at the head of an interim government. In the country's first post-Saddam elections in 2005, Allawi, a secular Shiite, and his party were routed by a coalition of religious Shiites, and he was effectively sidelined as leader of the parliament's 25-member unpopular secular bloc and spends most of his time outside Iraq. But his proposal suggests that he may plan a comeback with possible help and backing from Arab governments. On Sunday, he met with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. No details were available about their meeting. But many believe that Allawi lacks the political force to stand up to the militias and other violent groups that have increasingly gained power. They also doubt that key Arab governments would be willing to send troops to Iraq. The outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also has suggested holding a conference on Iraq that he said would be useful if the political parties involved met outside Iraq. In its report released earlier this month, the US bipartisan Iraq Study Group also recommended to engaging Iraq's neighboring nations, including US adversaries Iran and Syria, in an effort to ending the violence in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that his government would send envoys to neighboring countries to discuss possible contributions to building security and stability in Iraq. Other top Iraqi politicians, including President Jalal Talabani and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who leads parliament's largest bloc, have in recent days rejected the suggestion for an international conference.