Iraqi leaders furious over Mubarak comments
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak angered Iraqi leaders Sunday by saying Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries as he spoke about possible civil war in Iraq.
"Definitely Iran has influence on Shiites," Mubarak said in an interview broadcast Saturday evening by Al-Arabiya television. "Shiites are 65 percent of the Iraqis ... Most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in." He also said civil war "has almost started" in Iraq. "At the moment, Iraq is almost close to destruction," he warned.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said Mubarak's remarks were not accurate. "It is true that there are some kind of clashes among Sunnis and Shias. But it is not civil war," he told Britain's Channel 4 News.
Mubarak's spokesman, Suleiman Awad, tried Sunday to ease the impact. He noted the president was talking about Shiite sympathy with Iran "in view of its hosting of (Shiite) holy shrines."
"The president's statement about Iraq was only reflecting his increasing worries about the deteriorating situation and his keenness to maintain Iraq's national unity," Awad said in a statement carried by the state news agency MENA.
However, Iraqi leaders did not accept this clarification. "This is a stab in their (Shiites') patriotism and their civilization," Iraq's three highest-ranking Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni Arab leaders - Talabani, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Parliament Speaker Adnan Pachachi - said in a joint statement Sunday.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari complained to Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit about Mubarak's comments, an Iraqi diplomat in Cairo told the AP.