Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Iraq parliament speaker calls for US withdrawal

Iraq parliament speaker calls for US withdrawal

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's parliament speaker Mahmud Mashhadani bitterly criticized US forces in Iraq, accusing them of "butchery" and demanded that they pull out of the country.

Mashhadani was speaking at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad, and his strongly worded attack appeared to embarrass his international hosts, who grimaced on the podium.

"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right," the conservative Sunni Islamist said, in a speech opening the conference.

"What has been done in Iraq is a kind of butchery of the Iraqi people," he said in a long winded speech that criticized the tactics of the coalition forces as well as US support for Israeli strikes against Lebanon.

The two day conference, which was originally supposed to be opened by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, will address the issue of dealing with the crimes of previous Iraqi regimes and a plan to reconcile the country's warring factions.

The prime minister is expected to name a reconciliation committee Saturday.

Mashhadani bluntly told the audience of UN officials, foreign experts, Iraqi politicians and civil society representatives that the Iraqi people had little use for foreign advice on running the country or foreign-sponsored conferences.

"If a reconciliation project is going to work it has to talk to all the people," he said. "It must go through our Iraqi beliefs and perceptions. What we need is reconciliation between Iraqis only, there can be no third party."

To underscore his distaste for US forces in Iraq, he related an anecdote about how US soldiers keep people waiting in lines at checkpoints for hours because they insist on resting their bomb-sniffing dogs.

"The sleep of American dogs is more important than people being stopped in the street for hours," he said, evoking chuckles among Iraqi delegates.

The UN representative who then opened the conference subsequently referred to Mashhadani's speech as "spirited".

Mashhadani is a member of the main Sunni Arab parliamentary bloc, the National Concord Front, which is a member of Maliki's national unity government.