Iraqi Shiites, Kurds disparage study group proposals


Mon, Dec 11, 2006 - Page 7

Top Shiite and Kurdish leaders have disparaged the Iraq Study Group report. Sunni Arabs said they agree with the report's prognosis of Iraq's problems -- but not the proposed cure.

Reaction to the 96-page document released on Wednesday has underlined this nation's political and sectarian fissures, signaling the magnitude of the task ahead for a Bush administration anxiously searching for a change of course in troubled Iraq.

The divisions over the report, reflecting Iraq's ethnic and religious fault lines, center around some of the most highly charged issues afflicting today's Iraq -- national reconciliation, sharing oil wealth and the role of neighboring nations in efforts to end Iraq's problems.

They also come at a time when serious doubts have been raised on whether the ruling Shiite-led government and its leader, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have the strength to place the nation on the road to stability at a time when its US backers are publicly pondering an exit strategy that would leave Iraq's nascent security forces taking the lead in efforts to end the violence.

Facing rising dissent from within his government, al-Maliki last week said an often-delayed national reconciliation conference would be held this month. A senior aide at the Ministry of National Dialogue, who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said the meeting would open on Sunday.

The opposition by the myriad ethnic and religious factions is going to make the report's recommendations for changes in US Iraq policy a hard sell, despite calls by the bipartisan commission to reduce political, military or economic support if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress.

"The report includes inaccurate information that's based on dishonest sources," said Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a top Shiite politician.

He also rejected the report's linkage between ending Iraq's problems and a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.