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Militias could spark Iraq civil war- Maliki

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Apr 26: Prime Minister-Designate Jawad al-Maliki said in comments broadcast today that failure to disband militias threatened to push Iraq into civil war.

''The weapons must be in the hands of the state. Their presence in the hands of others (militias) will be the start of problems that will trigger a civil war,'' he said in an interview broadcast on state television.

Shi'ite leader Maliki, who has started talks on forming a unity government widely seen as the best way to avert an open communal conflict, said there was a law in place stipulating that militias should be merged with the armed forces.

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said the armed groups, which are tied to leading political parties, are killing more Iraqis than insurgents and they must be disbanded.

Maliki urged Iraq's Shi'ites, Kurds and Arab Sunnis to unite against suicide bombings, shootings and assassinations that have killed many thousands of security forces and civilians since the US-led invasion of 2003.

But he cautioned that military force alone would not eradicate the problem.

''Force alone will not wipe out terrorism. If it ends in one place it pops up in another. If we are to succeed with all Iraqi people there must be solutions to unemployment and start a process of investment,'' he said.

Maliki, apparently seeking to ease Sunni Arab concerns that sectarianism will dictate policies in any Shi'ite government, said ministries would be open to all political parties as he forms a government.

''I will choose from three candidates from each ministry,'' he said.

Sunnis have accused the Shi'ite-led Interior Ministry of sanctioning militia death squads, a charge it has denied as hundreds of bodies have turned up on streets since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine that touched off reprisals.

Maliki, one of the exiles from Saddam Hussein's regime who returned after his fall, tried to deflect Sunni accusations that Iran was interfering in Iraqi affairs through its close ties with the Shi'ite-dominated administration.

He said it was important to thank neighbouring countries like Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia which took in Iraqis who fled Saddam's Iraq, but that should not be misinterpreted.

''This does not mean any country can meddle in our affairs,'' he said.


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