Iraqi prime minister fights back after calls for him to step down

IRAQ'S embattled prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, yesterday hit out at calls for him to stand down from France's foreign minister and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and complained that some US officials treated his country like an American "village".

And, in a sign of increased tension between Mr Maliki and Washington - last week saw critical comments made by the US ambassador to Iraq and in a US intelligence report - he also criticised the US military for killing civilians.

The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who visited Iraq this month, reportedly said that Mr Maliki should be replaced and suggested another leading Iraqi politician should take over.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And last week Senator Clinton, a leading candidate for the US presidency, joined fellow Democrat Carl Levin, the head of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, in calling for Iraq's parliament to replace Mr Maliki for failing to reconcile warring sects.

But the Iraq premier responded yesterday by saying: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin.

"This is severe interference in our domestic affairs. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton are from the Democratic Party and they must demonstrate democracy.

"I ask them to come to their senses and to talk in a respectful way about Iraq."

Mr Maliki strongly criticised the US military for killing civilians during raids in Shiite areas of Baghdad, which have provoked demonstrations by mourners and condemnation from Shiite groups.

"Concerning American raids on Shula [a northern Shiite neighbourhood] and Sadr City [the Shiite slum enclave in east Baghdad]; there were big mistakes committed in these operations. The terrorist himself should be targeted, not his family," he said.

"We have said this many times before. When you want to arrest someone it is not acceptable to go there and kill another ten innocent people or destroy houses.

"These are violations. These are mistakes which we have to deal with. We will not allow the detaining of innocent people. Only the criminals should be detained."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Washington's relations with Mr Maliki have frayed in recent weeks, although the president, George Bush, says he backs him.

On Tuesday last week, the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, called Mr Maliki's government's progress "extremely disappointing".

And the French foreign minister reportedly said he had told the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that Mr Maliki has "got to be replaced".

Mr Kouchner was quoted as saying: "There's a lot of support for, for instance, [vice-president] Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who's an impressive fellow, and not only because he studied in France. He's solid. Of the people who are available, he's widely seen as the one that ought to have the job."

But Mr Kouchner said it was uncertain whether Mr Maliki would be replaced "because it seems president Bush is attached to Mr Maliki. But the government is not functioning".

Responding to the remarks, Mr Maliki said: "We welcomed their foreign minister and we were happy with his visit, but they have to show us respect.

"We call upon the French government to apologise."


FIVE children and two women were killed after US forces bombed a house in the Iraqi city of Samarra yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Donnelly, spokesman for US forces in northern Iraq, said it was "regrettable" if there had been any civilian casualties, but blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for putting them in danger.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"At approximately noon today, 12 men in a white truck got out of the truck, ran into a house where we had soldiers in an overwatch position and attacked our soldiers," he said.

The attackers fled to another house and were tracked from the air by a US surveillance drone. "We dropped a precision guidance bomb on the house following positive identification."

A police officer later said five children and two women were killed in the strike and eight people were wounded, including three children.

Related topics: