News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqHakim: New Iraq must be Islamic state

Hakim: New Iraq must be Islamic state

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AP: Many consider Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the prominent cleric who leads the United Iraqi Alliance, to have emerged as the country’s
top Shiite power broker after the Jan. 30 elections.
A leader of a key Shiite political organization, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Hakim opposed Saddam Hussein from exile in Iran before returning after the U.S.-led invasion. Associated Press

MAGGIE MICHAEL

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Many consider Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the prominent cleric who leads the United Iraqi Alliance, to have emerged as the country’s top Shiite power broker after the Jan. 30 elections.

A leader of a key Shiite political organization, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Hakim opposed Saddam Hussein from exile in Iran before returning after the U.S.-led invasion.

The alliance he leads with the backing of Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric, took 140 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly, the body charged with writing a new constitution.

Al-Sistani also endorsed the alliance’s choice for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the conservative Islamic Dawa Party, silencing support for the secular Shiite Ahmad Chalabi.

In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press, al-Hakim said the new Iraq must be an Islamic state with laws that do not offend the faith. He said Shiite leaders also envision a federal system that would rely on Iraqis to fight insurgents.

He spoke in Arabic, at his heavily fortified office in central Baghdad:

AP: What point have talks with other political groups reached?

Al-Hakim: Ongoing talks are taking place in a positive atmosphere and we are optimistic that we will get to agree, that there won’t be a problem. …

AP: The Kurds have listed conditions for their negotiations with the rest of the political groups. Do they include demands about the Kirkuk issue? (Kurds have said they want the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk to be included in the autonomous Kurdish enclave.)

Al-Hakim: They talked with us but they didn’t list demands such as the one you mentioned. We will, after a while, be meeting with the brotherly Kurds, with the committee assigned by the alliance. (A 21 member-committee handles negotiations between the alliance and other political groups)

AP: When will the first session of the National Assembly convene?

Al-Hakim: We hope the assembly convenes as soon as possible. I hope it convenes at the beginning of next week, but we know that some technical problems might create obstacles and cause delays.

AP: Grand Cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani blessed the alliance before and after elections, and it’s believed that was the reason people voted for the alliance. How do you respond?

Al-Hakim: It is an important reason. The clerics have a big impact on the Iraqi people, and certainly when this cleric blessed a certain list, or when he said that he is by the side of a certain list, people will react positively react – as they did. But that doesn’t mean that the members of the list are not popular among the Iraqi people. …

AP: In the alliance there are some members who have their own agendas and might try to pressure the entire coalition. It is clear that this was the case during the nomination for the post of prime minister. What is your response?

Al-Hakim: Yes. There were some people who were trying to make use of the media, and as you know our policy is not to let media interfere in all our issues, and not to let the media give an exaggerated picture of issues.

The decision (to nominate al-Jaafari) was taken unanimously and this is very important. The brothers who nominated him vowed to stand by the prime minister to help him succeed.

AP: Islamic Sharia and the constitution?

Al-Hakim: There are three points: first, that there must be a respect for the Islamic identity. Second, that Islam is the official religion of the state. Third, that there should not be any law that violates Islam.

AP: What is the position of the alliance toward federalism?

Al-Hakim: We do not oppose the idea, as we said before. … Our brothers the Kurds believe that federalism will solve their problems, and we see no harm in adopting this system in Iraq. …

AP: What are the practical steps the alliance believes will achieve security and stability in Iraq?

Al-Hakim: First of all, the most important and central point is to depend on the Iraqi people to solve the security issue. …

We must depend on the sons of the Iraqi people who believe in the new Iraq, and not on those bad elements that infiltrated the security circles and turned into a problem.

We can’t solve the security issue unless we reconsider the internal structure, to spot those bad elements. …

All the people which the former regime brought and depended on must be chased out. They must be identified and we must also decide what to do with all those foreigners who were imported from abroad. Iraq must be cleaned of terrorist groups.

Also, one of the angles we will pursue is to benefit from the highly advance capabilities that some of our neighboring countries have in the security arena. … This issue is not just Iraq’s problem.

AP: What’s your reaction to the capture of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, half brother of Saddam Hussein?

Al-Hakim: Those criminals are on the run and we will chase the rest of them. We will work on arresting all the criminals, either those inside Iraq, or those in other neighboring countries, so that they can stand fair trial and (be) punished for the crimes they have committed against the Iraqi people.

AP: What are the mistakes of the American occupation?

Al-Hakim: The occupation committed many mistakes, and the most important were the ones related to security issues, sovereignty and many others which we would need long time to talk about.

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