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Iraqi PM offers release of opposition prisoners

Maliki seeks political support from Sadr opposition followers

The political movement of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rejected an offer by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to release its members locked in Iraqi prisons in exchange for their support for him to retain his post, a prominent member of the movement told Al Arabiya TV on Friday.

Bahaa al –Araji, a lawmaker from al-Sadr’s political bloc said in Al Arabiya TV’s talk show “Who Will Rule Iraq” presented by Suhair al-Qaysei that the Sadrists are in favor of Iraq’s Vice President and head of the National Coalition political party Adel Abdul Mehdi to be the new Iraqi prime minister.

There is an estimated 2,000 Sadrists detained in Iraqi prisons; some of them were charged with encouraging a sectarian war while others were accused of rebellion.

An alliance if brokered between al-Sadrists and Abdul Mehdi’s National coalition will shift Iraq’s March election’s competition between the two winners, al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc and Iyad’s Allawi’s Iraqiya List in favor of Abdul Mehdi.

Allawi came two seats ahead of al-Maliki in Iraq’s last election demanding that it is his constitutional right to be the new prime minister only to change his stance when his bloc lent support to Abdul Mehdi.
Abdul Mehdi also said that he received nomination support from the Kurdish blocs as well.

Sadrists have always opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq, and were against the 2008 U.S.-Iraq security pact and see it as a prolongation of a U.S. stay in the country.

Sadrists have 30 parliamentary seats which make them attractive for other rival political party contenders to pursue them as a political ally, and to collect more votes to form majority.

Iraq’s chapter 7 status

Meanwhile, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said that the biggest obstacle facing Iraq is the Saddam-era inherited burdens and promised in a UN speech that he will find a solution, including solving Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait.

The U.N. Security Council decisions still requires Iraq to continue making payments prominently to Kuwait for the Saddam era abuses.
Iraq allocates 5 percent of its oil revenues per year to settle Saddam era international claims totaling about $20 billion.

Iraq has repeatedly called to annul Iraq's Chapter 7 status in the United Nation but Kuwait has so far opposed and successfully lobbied the Security Council to preserve it.

Talabani said Iraq has witnessed important development in 2010 including a perceived improvement in the security situation, the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, and the success of a transparent election, but a delay in a forming a new government will be a hurdle inhibiting Iraq to further progress.

The United States agreed in late 2008 to help Iraq come out of the Chapter 7 sanctions as part of a security agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad.

Iraq also agreed to pay $400 million to Americans who say they were abused by Saddam Hussein's regime. Iraqi officials see the signed deal as a gesture to help Iraq end sanctions imposed by the United Nations two decades ago.

(Written by Dina al-Shibeeb and edited by Mustapha Ajbaili)