Iran says it wants inclusive Iraqi government

Former PM Allawi vying with incumbent al-Maliki to collect enough support to form coalition.

Ayad Allawi 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ayad Allawi 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran said Thursday that all Iraqi parties that fared well in the inconclusive March election should be included in the government after the secular front-runner sent a delegation to Teheran .
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who won the vote by a razor-thin margin, is vying with incumbent Nouri al-Maliki to collect enough support to form a government after neither gained an outright majority in the parliamentary vote.
His sending a delegation to Iran was significant because Allawi drew major support in the vote from Sunni Muslims, who deeply distrust mainly Shiite Iran, and Allawi himself spoke out often in the campaign against Teheran 's influence in Iraq.
The visit may be an attempt to ward off an attempt by al-Maliki's party and the other top Iranian-backed Shiite bloc to form a merger that would allow them to form a government and sideline Allawi.
Iranian state TV reported that Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani expressed hope that all Iraqi political groups would "participate in the future of Iraq, based on their political weight" during a meeting with Sunni lawmaker Rafia al-Issawi, a member of Allawi's secular Iraqiya list.
Iran has been accused of trying to tip the balance in favor of hard-line religious Shiites who would be more likely to promote its policies in Iraq. Many in the region fear the Islamic Republic is poised to gain influence in the neighboring country as the US withdraws forces by the end of next year.
Representatives from the two Shiite blocs — al-Maliki's State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance — reportedly met weeks ago in Teheran  to discuss a merger, raising concern among Allawi and his followers. Allawi's secular bloc edged out al-Maliki's group by just two seats in the election.
Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, called the election and political negotiations a "positive" process and said Teheran  is seeking the formation of a government in Iraq through the "participation of all political groups and ethnicities in the election based on realities and constitution of Iraq."
Jalili and Larijani's remarks reflected the traditional public stanceof Iran on Iraq — that it does not interfere in its politics — althoughIran supports the Shiites, who comprise some 60 percent of Iraq'spopulation.
The US has repeatedly accused Iran of meddling inpolitics and supporting violence in Iraq, but Teheran  denies theallegations, saying it supports the democratic process in the wartorncountry.
Teheran  sees the presence of the US forces on itsdoorstep as a threat. Iran is at odds with the West over its disputednuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a cover forbuilding a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge saying it aims togenerate electricity and other peaceful purposes.