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[casi] Iraq opposition aims for territorial base

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Assyrian News Watch
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Assyrian Chaldean Syriac


The Guardian

Iraq opposition aims for territorial base

Brian Whitaker
Friday July 26, 2002
The Guardian

The US-funded Iraqi opposition will today announce plans to set up a
provisional government "on any free ground" in Iraq.
Its aim is to establish a territorial base, gain international recognition
and create a framework for government.

But some in the opposition say the move is more likely to inflame political
rivalries than hasten the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

The plan will be unveiled today at a press conference in Kensington town
hall in London. It will be presented by Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the
Iraqi National Congress, and Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, a claimant to the
Iraqi throne who is also a leading figure in the INC. They will be joined
by representatives of a new opposition group, the Iraqi National Movement.

Although sources say the provisional government would not be proclaimed
"until the moment fighting starts", there are fears that the preparations
will lead to squabbling.

"It's a stupid thing," said Saad Jabr, of the London-based Free Iraqi

"It's too early, too premature. The guys who are not in it - they'll all be
against it. If you announce a government in exile, other groups can do it

The plan seeks to include all the main political groups in the provisional
government, but sources close to the opposition doubt that is possible.

The exiled opposition consists of dozens of groups which regularly
subdivide, while opponents of the regime inside Iraq cannot be involved
openly - at least, not yet.

A meeting of exiled Iraqi officers in London earlier this month encountered
similar problems. It salvaged unity by electing an unnamed committee
without a chairman.

Opposition insiders say there has been friction between Dr Chalabi and
Sharif Ali in the past, although they now appear on good terms.

The obvious base for an alternative government would be in the Kurdish
areas of northern Iraq, where Baghdad has no control. But the Kurds already
have their own system of government and there are conflicting claims as to
whether Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has
agreed to let it operate from there.

Some see the INC's move mainly as an attempt to improve its standing in
Washington: "They want to show they're doing something," Mr Jabr said. As
the main umbrella group for the Iraqi opposition, the INC has been heavily
supported by US taxpayers over the years, but has run into arguments about
its accounting practices.

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