by Sanjay Suri
(IPS) LONDON --
visibly divided Iraqi opposition leadership is heading home with high hopes of sharing in the post-war spoils.
The divisions emerged Tuesday when a group of opposition leaders sat together at a press conference in London and frequently contradicted one another.
Members of the Iraqi opposition groups seemed to agree only that they will meet in the southern Iraqi city Nasiriyah Saturday.
"We hope all opposition groups will be represented," Dr Ghassan Atiyyah, editor of the publication Iraqi File; told media representatives.
The Iraqi National Congress (INC), which is close to the Pentagon, seems to be ahead of the field..
"It would be too optimistic to say that we can begin to exercise democracy from the day after," said Riyad Al-Yawar of the INC.
"They have a role as an occupying force, there are many duties and obligations they need to fulfil," he said. "We do not want premature democracy. If a baby is delivered before the end of a normal pregnancy term, the baby will suffer."
INC leader Ahmad Chalabi, who was flown into Nasiriyah by the U.S. this week, is hoping to play a major role in Iraq. Chalabi claims to have sent a force of 700 men to provide local assistance to U.S. troops.
Chalabi is among many opposition leaders who have already begun to campaign for a role for themselves in Iraq. But if the differences that arose in London are anything to go by, they seem set to be multiplied in Nasiriyah.
"The majority want the monarchy as the best guarantee of the return of democracy," said Sharif Ali Hussain, a cousin of the former king and now head of the Monarchist Constitutional Movement. He did not say how he had assessed this to be the majority view. Not even the majority on the panel seemed to agree.
Sharif Ali said opposition groups have been working closely with the U.S. government for a long time. This will continue for some time, he said. "In the immediate phase the British and American forces will be in charge on the ground, arresting people, fixing the water supply etc." he said. "Then an internal authority will be created."
Later the Iraqis will elect their own government, he said. In the immediate postwar period, the U.S. and British forces "are under a legal obligation to take care of the welfare of the Iraqi people." He said the interim phase when the Americans and the British take charge "could be a few months, it could be two years."
Atiyyah immediately challenged him. "The Americans are planning everything, but they have not dealt yet with the Iraqi opposition and Iraqis as a whole as partners," he said. "We hope that this situation will be rectified in the near future."
Iraqis will have to find a new constitution, he said, "but not under the authority of Americans occupying our land." He said that if in any way the Americans and the British "try to recolonize Iraq, the people of Iraq will oppose them, and the move will be self-defeating."
Syed Mohammad Bahr Uloom, a leader from the Islamic Ahl al Bayt Foundation, said the U.S. forces must leave immediately after the military operation. "We do not accept governorship by the coalition forces," he said. "Right after they have finished their military work, we will tell them thank you, it is time now for the Iraqi people to rule Iraq."
Dr. Latif Rashid, representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in London said "we will not accept a U.S. general ruling over us for a long period of time." The U.S. forces must stay "for a short period of time to establish peace and security and then hand over to a broad-based national coalition government."
If there was one thing that seemed to unite the Iraqi opposition leaders, it was their sensitivity to exploitation of oil resources by British or U.S. firms.
"Iraqis do not need foreign expertise in production, surveying, refining or marketing oil," said Dr. Salah Shaikhy of the Iraqi National Accord. "We have been running our own oil sector for 33 years. The Americans did not bring more than 100,000 troops to Iraq because our oil sector was not doing well. Their declared aim is to search for weapons of mass destruction."
Areas like oil, banking, finance and agriculture "should be left to Iraqis and to Iraqis alone," he said. "We are quite capable of running our country." Sharif Ali said the Americans will have to "be careful in appointing people to handle sensitive positions like oil."
Shia leader Abdel Majid al-Khoei and tribal leader Youssef al-Khairallah are at least two other leaders also preparing for leadership of sorts in Iraq.
The leaders all say they speak for the people of Iraq, but the people of Iraq have still not spoken. Nor has the Pentagon.
April 9, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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