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IRAQ - Talabani & Hakim Back Kurdish & Shiite Militias.

President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, on June 8 openly praised Shiite and Kurdish militias in a statement which could further antagonise Sunni Arabs. Talabani's backing of Badr Brigade, the militia arm of the country's largest Shiite political/religious party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) of Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, came at a time when Sunni Arab leaders have accused it of killing members of the minority.

Hakim claims Badr is no longer a militia but performs social and political functions, saying: "Badr is a patriotic group working for Iraq's interest and it will not be dragged into sectarian or any other kind of conflict. Badr is for all Iraqis".

Talabani said: "May those who describe the heroes of Badr and their Kurdish brothers as militia be doomed to failure". He said this at a conference marking the second anniversary of Badr's transformation from a solely military body to a political one. Talabani added: "You and your [Kurdish] brothers are the heroes of liberating Iraq. You, my brothers, march on without paying attention to the enemies' claims because you and the [Kurdish militia] are faithful sons of this country".

There are no accurate figures on Badr's size. It is much smaller than the Kurdish Peshmerga, estimated at 100,000. The Peshmerga has been exempted from efforts to disband militias due to its close ties to the US and its supporting role during the 2003 Iraq war.

Sunni Arab criticism of Talabani's remarks was swift, with Abdul Salam Al-Qubaisi, of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), saying Talabani was acting in line with "US policies to prolong the struggle in Iraq and turn it into an Iraq-Iraq conflict". Qubaisi accused Badr of providing intelligence to units such as the feared Wolf Brigade, an elite commando force from the interior ministry which is headed by a top SCIRI member.

Qubaisi added: "We do not have problems with this party or another, we only have problems with the chasing and killing of Sunni religious men and their followers. Even the militia elements who have joined the Iraqi army have been heavy-handed during army operations".

Badr's chief Hadi Al-Amiri challenged AMS head Shaikh Harith Al-Dhari to prove his group's involvement and urged an investigation into the killing of Sunni Arab religious men. "If the accusations prove to be true, then we will apologise and punish the offenders, but if they turn out to be false, Al-Dhari should apologise", he told the June 8 gathering.
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Title Annotation:Jalal Talabani; Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim
Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 13, 2005
Previous Article:IRAQ - Resurgence In The Shiite World - Part 8 - The Perspective & Conclusions.
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