US-backed Iraqi Group Forms New Secretariat
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A leading US-backed Iraqi opposition group has set up a new leadership body following criticism that the umbrella group was not representative, a senior member said Monday.
The Central Council of the Iraqi National Congress, which met in London on Saturday and Sunday, named to the new five-member secretariat representatives of Iraq's main ethnic minorities and two Shiite Muslims.
The secretariat included a representative from Iraqi Turkmen, who will head the body, an Assyrian, an Islamic Kurd and the two Shiites, Muwaffaq al-Rubei told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from London.
That formula addressed concerns raised by the Iraqi National Accord, which had said last week it was quitting the INC.
It was not clear whether the INA would follow through with its threat to stay away. Al-Rubei said the INA's concerns found support among the 50 leaders who attended the meeting out of the 65-member council. He said the INA's place in the alliance leadership was kept open.
The INA protested the weak representation of both Islamic thinkers and Arab nationalists, as well as the INC's close association with U.S. policies.
Al-Rubei said there are two major opinions in the INC concerning links to the United States.
"One trend wants the fate of the INC to be attached to America, while the other trend says the focus should be first on the struggle inside the country and later comes regional and international support," he said.
In March, the INC received dlrs 265,000 in economic support, marking the United States' first direct grant to aid the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The U.S. Congress appropriated dlrs 8 million late last year for this purpose, plus dlrs 97 million in surplus Pentagon equipment provided under the Iraqi Liberation Act signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Attempts by the INC to organize opposition to Saddam have been hampered in the past by ideological and ethnic divisions.
The new secretariat will work alongside a seven-member leadership council which was named last year in London and includes representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the INA, independents and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The Iran-based Supreme Council, an influential Shiite group, has been particularly opposed to links with the United States and has so far not attended any INC meetings. (Associated Press)
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