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Baghdad tells US not to interfere in 'internal' matters

3 min

An Iraqi government agent said on Saturday that the US should not interfere in its affairs, in response to a remark made by US Vice President Joe Biden that Washington would politically disengage if ethnic or sectarian violence resumed.


AFP - Iraq on Saturday told the United States to back off in its attempts to resolve rows between the strife-torn country's sects, saying such interference could cause problems and make matters worse.

The message was directed at visiting US Vice President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly voiced concern about lingering feuds between Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities being a roadblock to political progress.

"We don't want other parties to interfere in this matter because it will cause complications," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on state television, referring to the country's national reconciliation process.

"(Joe Biden) has to convey to President (Barack) Obama the common desire of Iraqis to solve their problems together," he said.

Baghdad's comments came a day after Biden warned of a "hard road ahead if Iraq is going to find lasting peace and stability," alluding to the need to bolster trust between different ethnic and religious groups.

Dabbagh said Biden had expressed his concerns to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and although Iraq harboured the same anxiety, bridging the sectarian divide was an internal matter.

"Iraqis will handle these matters and non-Iraqi entrance on this will be a complication and make problems we don't need," Dabbagh said. "We want to resolve our issues between ourselves."

Biden earlier celebrated Independence Day with American troops, including his soldier son Beau, at their base near Baghdad, giving a speech that mocked Saddam Hussein.

He addressed soldiers at Camp Victory shortly after saying the US role in Iraq was switching from deep military engagement to one of diplomatic support, ahead of a complete withdrawal from the country in 2011.

He also told newly sworn-in American citizens, mainly soldiers, that the United States had honoured its June 30 obligation to withdraw troops from Iraq's towns and cities and the focus was now on strengthening political ties.

But his tone was far from diplomatic when he shared lunch with the 261st Theatre Tactical Signal Brigade from Delaware, to which his son belongs, at the massive US base on the outskirts of the capital.

"We did it in Saddam's palace and I can think of nothing better," Biden said, referring to the naturalisation ceremony at Al-Faw Palace near Baghdad airport.

"That SOB is rolling over in his grave right now," he said of executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was toppled from power in the 2003 US-led invasion.

Biden joined hundreds of American troops dining on chicken, ribs, hamburgers, salad, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and cakes at a July 4 feast in a canteen decked out in red, white and blue streamers and tablecloths.

The citizenship ceremony saw 237 men and women, mainly Mexicans and Filipinos who joined the army while resident in the United States, as well as several Iraqi military translators, take the oath of allegiance.

Biden had to cancel a trip to the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq because sandstorms prevented him from flying from Baghdad to Arbil, the Kurds' political capital.

The vice president's visit to Iraq comes just after Obama charged him with overseeing the US departure in 2011.

Maliki, who is expected to visit Washington soon, said on Friday that the US troop pullback signalled that the two countries had "entered a new phase."

"We will work during the next visit to the United States to push forward bilateral relations in various areas," and to work to remove sanctions imposed during Saddam's regime, Maliki said.

Iraq marked Tuesday's American pullback with a national holiday.

The country's 500,000 police and 250,000 soldiers are now in charge in cities, towns and villages. Most of the 133,000 US troops, now based outside urban centres, will largely play a training and support role.

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