The media advisor to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “absolutely” denied statements reported by The New York Times this week that the Iraqi government urged the Syrian president to step down.
Ali al-Moussawi said these statements, which are allegedly made by him, are incorrect, and added that “it is neither the nature nor the followed-discourse of the Iraqi government to intervene in internal affairs of other countries,” AFP reported.
Moussawi said he “absolutely” denied these statements and added that the Iraqi government did not request Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign.
According to The New York Times, Moussawi said that the Iraqi government has sent messages to Assad that said he should cede power, thereby reversing Iraq’s foreign policy towards the country.
“We believe that the Syrian people should have more freedom and have the right to experience democracy,” The New York Times quoted him as saying, adding “we are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for the freedom of expression.”
In August, the United States and a couple of its major allies called for Assad to cede power, but the Iraqi government chose to side with Syria.
On the same day that the U.S. called for Assad to step down, Maliki gave a speech warning Arab leaders that Israel would benefit the most from the Arab Spring.
Iraq and Syria have been adversaries in the past, and Iraq has accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters and suicide bombers to cross its border into Iraq.
According to Moussawi, the Iraqi government had long wanted Assad to step down, but he declined to say why the government had not explicitly expressed its position until Tuesday.
During the escalation of the violent crackdown against protesters in Syria in June, Maliki received a Syrian envoy made up of businesspeople and government officials, including the foreign minister, to discuss closer economic ties between the two countries.
During the same period, the Iraqi prime minister told Syrians to stick to peaceful protests and give their government a chance to enact reforms.
The New York Times reported that analysts last year said that Iran pressured Assad to support Maliki’s second term as prime minister, and since then Iraq and Syria have strengthened their economic and diplomatic relations.
It now appears that the Iraqi government is more in line with U.S. foreign policy. The Iraqi government has asked American officials about the United States’ plans should Mr. Assad resign, Moussawi said.
“Our goals are the same as the United States has in changing the regime,” he said. “The only difference is the way to achieve these goals. I don’t know how you can guarantee what will happen in Syria if there is a sudden change. I’m sure there will be a civil war and lots of chaos.”