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Iraqi PM rebukes 2 Sunni Arab states

Published: 17 Mar 2014 19:40:36 PST

Maliki's remarks play to Baghdad's fears of Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents his troops are battling in western Anbar province, in his strongest such statement since fighting started there early this year.

Security forces have been fighting insurgents from the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Anbar's two main cities - Fallujah and Ramadi - since January, when the arrest of a Sunni lawmaker and the clearing of an anti-government protest camp prompted a tribal revolt and allowed the ISIL to set up fighting positions in the cities.

Maliki's remarks play to Iraqi fears of the Sunni Arab states as he tries to burnish his standing as a defender of the mainly Shiite country before elections at the end of April.

Violence has escalated in the last 12 months - ISIL has led a devastating campaign of suicide bombings since mid-2013 - and Maliki said in a mid-February speech that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were offering money to recruit fighters in Fallujah.

Iraqi PM rebukes 2 Sunni Arab states

More than 700 people died in violence in Iraq in February, not including nearly 300 reported deaths in western Anbar province. Last year was the deadliest since 2008, with nearly 8,000 killed.

"I accuse them of inciting and encouraging the terrorist movements. I accuse them of supporting them politically and in the media, of supporting them with money and by buying weapons for them," he told France 24 television late on Saturday.

"I accuse them of leading an open war against the Iraqi government. I accuse them of openly hosting leaders of al-Qaida and Takfirists (extremists)," he said in the interview when asked about possible Saudi and Qatari links to the violence.

The two Gulf monarchies "are attacking Iraq through Syria and directly. They absolutely staged a war on Iraq as they staged a war on Syria".

Maliki has long had chilly relations with the Gulf states, who view him as too close to Iran, and has long suspected them of funding al-Qaida-linked groups in order to bring down his Shiite-led government.

He accused the Saudi government of allowing "commissions" there "to attract jihadists, to lure them, to get them fighting in Iraq".

He also accused both countries of launching Syria's three-year-old civil war through al-Qaida-linked groups that now operate on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, next to Anbar.

The ISIL has been one of the biggest fighting forces in Syria's civil war.

"Saudi Arabia supports terrorism against the world, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya."

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played an activist role in the Syria war, supporting armed groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad. They both deny supporting al-Qaida.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.


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