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Allawi says Iran an obstacle to forming government

Former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi has said meddling from Iran is impeding his party from forming a government coalition, more than three weeks after his bloc won a narrow victory in Iraq's March 7 legislative poll.


AFP - Former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi accused neighbouring Iran on Tuesday of seeking to prevent him becoming prime minister again, after his bloc emerged strongest from national elections.

Tehran was interfering in the election process in Iraq, where his Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats in the 325-member Council of Representatives, two more than Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance, he told the BBC.

"Iran is interfering quite heavily and this is worrying," Allawi told the British broadcaster, accusing the Islamic republic of inviting all the major parties to Tehran apart from his bloc.

"They have invited everybody -- but they haven't invited us -- to Tehran," he said.

Asked directly whether Iran wanted to stop him becoming prime minister, Allawi responded: "I think so, they made it very clear... that they have a red line.

"We are concerned about respecting the will of the Iraqi people."

Neither Iraqiya nor State of Law clinched an overall parliamentary majority and a protracted period of coalition building, which could take months, is now expected.

Senior figures from State of Law and other major Iraqi parties have visited Tehran since the March 7 parliamentary election -- but no official from Iraqiya is known to have travelled to the Iranian capital.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who heads one of the autonomous Kurdish region's two long-dominant blocs, and Shiite Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, a member of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), both visited Tehran over the weekend to mark Nowrouz, the Iranian and Kurdish New Year.

The INA is a coalition led by Shiite religious groups, including the movement loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Since Talabani and Abdel Mahdi's visit, senior officials from Maliki's State of Law, the Sadrist movement, and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, a Shiite religious group that is also part of the INA, have visited the Iranian capital.

Allawi's comments came as the US ambassador to Iraq voiced confidence that al-Maliki would abide by the law despite his mounting criticism of what he alleges is election fraud.

Ambassador Christopher Hill downplayed suggestions the political row following the election could descend into violence.

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