Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Disturbing, if true. Basically, Shiite officials allege that the American amabassador to Iraq reported that Bush told him to say that he (Bush) did not want the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to remain prime minister.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

The American Embassy confirmed Khalilzad met with al-Hakim, but hasn't said what the meeting was about.

As one might expect, this didn't go over to well with the Shia:

Haider al-Ubady, a spokesman for Mr. Jaafari, said the prime minister had heard of the ambassador's verbal message through officials in his party, and accused the Americans of trying to subvert Iraqi sovereignty and weaken the Shiite ranks.

"How can they do this?" Mr. Ubady said. "An ambassador telling a sovereign country what to do is unacceptable."

"The perception is very strong among certain Shia parties that the U.S., led by Khalilzad, is trying to unseat Jaafari," he added.

The White House, naturally, denies any such thing. I mean, who could ever suspect them of wanting to replace a foreign government that displeased them in any way? That sort of action would be completely unprecedented.

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