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Former Iraqi prime minister accuses government figures of plotting to kill him

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who is vying to once again lead his nation, on Sunday accused unnamed figures in the current government of being involved in a plot to kill him.

Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc won the largest share of parliamentary seats in March elections that have still not produced a new government, did not name the alleged culprits but provided an April 29 letter from the U.S. military to back up his contention that his life was in danger.


FOR THE RECORD: A story in Monday’s Section A said former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi provided an April 29 letter backing up his contention that his life was in danger. It was an April 26 letter.


“People in the government are definitely involved,” Allawi said in an interview. “We know a lot of people want this country to suffer and they want to destabilize this country. I’m sure of that and probably they feel that my presence poses an obstacle to their designs on this country, and this leads them to the fact that they want to kill me.”

He emphasized that he did not think Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was involved.

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Some Iraqi politicians were dismissive of the accusation, saying Allawi has made such charges in the past or noting the conspiratorial tendencies in Iraqi politics.

Allawi first spoke of the alleged assassination plot at a public gathering Saturday after the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat published a report about the threat, citing unnamed security sources. He said a sniper planned to shoot him on the road to the Baghdad airport or inside the compound.

Allawi said Sunday that he was warned that the plot would be preceded by a government order barring all politicians from flying into and out of the Muthanna airfield, a restricted military base in Baghdad from which Allawi had traveled exclusively since 2004. The order came down last week.

Government officials did not directly address Allawi’s initial accusation, but dismissed the claim that the military airport had been closed to him and other politicians as part of an elaborate assassination plot. Spokesman Ali Dabbagh stressed that the Maliki administration took seriously its role protecting all citizens, including Allawi.

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“The Iraqi government is willing to listen to what Dr. Iyad Allawi says with regard to threats on his life, and we will do everything possible to provide full protection to him,” Dabbagh told the news channel Al Arabiya on Saturday.

In a statement, Maliki’s office ridiculed the notion of any ulterior motive behind the shutting of the Muthanna air base to public officials.

“Some sides tried to raise some suspicions about the government decision not allowing the civilian planes to land on the military airports. Therefore, we would like to clarify,” Maliki’s office said. It added that any chartered flights, regardless of who was on board, should be required to go through customs, calling it a standard procedure around the world.

Asked about the alleged plot, several Iraqi politicians were skeptical.

“I’m extremely doubtful, although you shouldn’t be surprised by anything in Iraq,” said Sharif Ali bin Hussein, the head of the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy party. “I don’t think we’ve reached the stage where they would assassinate each other within the top leadership. I don’t think we’ve reached this stage.”

Another politician, who declined to be identified because of the harshness of his criticism, said: “This story has been ongoing for many years with Allawi. I’ve heard this story so many times.”

The charges and countercharges underscored the dark mood in Iraqi politics, where opposing sides regularly suspect the worst of their rivals.

The deep-seated suspicions also provide a look at Iraq’s troubles since the March elections. The vote, which failed to produce a clear-cut winner, instead ignited tensions between Allawi, a secular Shiite, and Maliki, who fashions himself as a protector of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority. Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition won 91 seats in the 325-seat parliament to Maliki’s 89, is convinced he is the rightful winner of the election and is due the right to form the next government.

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But a postelection alliance between Maliki’s State of Law slate and the third-place winner, a Shiite coalition with 70 seats, may result in a bloc in position to control the government.

Allawi said Sunday that he had become aware of the increasing danger to his life shortly after the March 7 elections, particularly when the U.S. military alerted him to the growing danger with a letter at the end of April.

The U.S. military letter, provided to The Times, warned: “We have reason to believe there is a threat against Dr. Allawi.” It then said the military had learned that a bomb might be planted on Allawi’s car at a false police checkpoint.

Asked about Allawi’s assertions and the letter that was sent to him, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza said he could not elaborate for security reasons about the alleged threats or the letter given to Allawi. He said, “As strategic partners, USF-I [United States Forces-Iraq] has established a relationship in sharing information that may aid or assist the Iraqi security forces to protect the Iraqi people and its leadership.”

Two members of Allawi’s coalition were killed recently in the northern city of Mosul.

ned.parker@latimes.com


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