Friday, December 01, 2006

Hakim reaches out to Sunnis in Jordan

al-Hakim with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

AMMAN, Jordan: One of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians sought to reassure Jordanians on the future of their fellow Sunnis in Iraq, telling hundreds of worshippers here Friday that he opposes sectarian killings and the creation of a Shiite state in his country.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, caused an uproar this week in Iraq when Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's dominant satellite news channels, quoted him as saying that Iraq's Sunni-Arab minority would be the biggest losers if civil war broke out in Iraq.

Al-Hakim, whose party is a senior member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition, quickly denied that he had made such a comment. Every Iraqi, he said, would lose if a civil war broke out.

"We denounce and reject sectarian killings," al-Hakim told worshippers after the Friday prayers at King Hussein mosque in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Al-Hakim, a mid-ranking cleric, did not lead the prayers, joining the ritual from behind a Sunni imam.

"We don't want a Shiite state that sidelines Sunnis or a Sunni state that sidelines Shiites," said al-Hakim, whose party was founded in Shiite Iran in the early 1980s by his brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, who was killed in a massive bombing in August 2003.

Al-Hakim's SCIRI runs a militia, the Badr Brigade, that is widely blamed for some of the sectarian killings that have been tearing Iraq apart since the bombing of a major Shiite shrine north of Baghdad in February.

Al-Hakim repeatedly has denied the involvement of the Badr Brigade in the violence, arguing the militia has been turned into a political organization. Before succeeding his brother as leader of SCIRI, al-Hakim was in charge of Badr, which was trained and armed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and fought on the side of Iran in its eight-year war against Saddam Hussein's army in the 1980s.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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