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Allawi: 'Power-sharing is dead now'

From Arwa Damon, CNN
Ex-Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says he won't accept a government role. "I will not be a part of this theater," he says.
Ex-Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says he won't accept a government role. "I will not be a part of this theater," he says.
  • "This is a new dictatorship that is happening in Iraq," says Allawi
  • The power-sharing pact had been quickly negotiated
  • Mistrust has helped keep Iraq without a functioning government since the election
  • Parliament meets again Saturday

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi offered Friday a grim prediction for the future of Iraq's government a day after leading his Iraqiya bloc's walkout from parliament in a dramatic display of unhappiness with a power-sharing agreement that had been forged earlier in the week.

"We think the concept of power-sharing is dead now," the secular Shiite told CNN. "It's finished."

Asked how that might affect a future government, he said, "For Iraq, there will be tensions and violence, probably."

Asked whether Iraqiya would be a part of a government that is not a power-sharing government, he said, "Well, maybe some members, but the main bulk of Iraqiya is not going to be part, and I am definitely not going to be part of this government." He said agreements about principles of power sharing and devolution of power "are not happening."

Thursday's walkout upset a carefully prepared plan for power sharing, one that Allawi said represented "a big blow for democracy."

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Asked what Iraq will look like in three or four years, the secular Shiite told CNN, "Well, I don't know, [it's] still early, but we have to see in the next two, three weeks what's going to happen." But, he added, based on what happened Thursday, "I don't think the process is looking that healthy."

If an agreement is not reached, he said, "God help us all."

"This is a new dictatorship that is happening in Iraq," he said. "It's becoming humiliating, it's becoming very dictatorial, and they don't want to respect those people who have other views than them."

Allawi and the Sunni-backed Iraqiya party he heads had said they would reject a government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, but they backed off on that threat when the power-sharing agreement was forged.

"We agreed to sacrifice our constitutional and democratic rights and to accept the formation of a government for the sake of the Iraqi people," he said.

The Kurdish region's president, Massoud Barzani, last week had launched an initiative to bring all political blocs together.

Heated, private meetings that lasted until 3 p.m. Thursday among Allawi, al-Maliki and Barzani had resulted in a basic agreement on the outline of a new government.

"We agreed on three things," Allawi said. The first two were "that the parliament should vote on setting this council, the National Council for Strategic Policies," and "to start a new chapter on reconciliation to give assurances to the Iraqi people that this is happening and that we are looking to the future and not the past."

The national council was a critical element to the power-sharing agreement. The idea for the council came from the United States. It was to have the power to pass binding directives and be led by a member of Iraqiya. Allawi himself was expected to lead the council, which would have served to check the powers of al-Maliki, whose critics say he has abused his power as prime minister to carry out a sectarian Shiite agenda.

In the March 7 elections, Allawi's bloc won 91 seats, the largest number for any group, and al-Maliki's list trailed with 89. But neither group could come up with the 163 seats needed for a governing coalition.

Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition eventually formed alliances with other political blocs in efforts largely brokered by Iran, and this strengthened his hand.

"The third thing we agreed upon," Allawi continued, "was a gesture of good will."

That was to have applied to the hot-button issue of de-Baathification -- the term used to describe the effort by Iraq to rid the country of Saddam Hussein's now-banned Baath Party.

Many Sunnis believe they are being unfairly targeted by some Shiites as being supporters of the Baath Party.

For example, a handful of Iraqiya members were banned by a de-Baathification government panel from participating in elections because they were suspected of glorifying the movement.

But Iraqiya wanted parliament to reconsider the politicians' status and the country's de-Baathification policy.

"I took the guarantees of the U.S. and other powers that there would be a power-sharing agreement and the real process of reconciliation," Allawi said.

He said U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed that these were critical issues that needed to be tackled and had thanked Allawi for stepping back from Iraqiya's claim to the premiership.

Everything appeared to have been agreed upon when parliament convened on Thursday, and the initial moments supported that view. Allawi and al-Maliki sat side by side, laughing. A new speaker -- Usama al-Nujaifi, from the Iraqiya list -- and his two deputies were elected.

But then the tentatively brokered power-sharing agreement started to unravel. A heated argument broke out after other members of parliament, including al-Maliki, refused to vote on the power-sharing agreement prior to voting in a president.

"The proceedings were going in the right way; then suddenly they said we are going to elect the president," Allawi recalled. "We said, 'Wait a minute here, we agreed that there are points that we agreed that are going to be announced and voted on.'"

He described himself as "extremely surprised" at the way events unfolded, since the agreement had been reached after talking to Obama and the Arab League.

Allawi and most members of his bloc then walked out.

"It's a joke, in a way," he said. "It reflects the intentions of these guys. They don't have the intention to really work on a power-sharing formula."

"We don't want to be puppets for a government that does not respect the will of the people, that does not respect power sharing. After all the compromises, I am not going to be a puppet running around being a false witness to history."

Allawi accused Iran of trying to keep his bloc from being fairly represented.

"In everything, we see Iran's hand trying to block it," he said. "We can't keep struggling every day, fighting Iran and Iran's influence in Iraq. It's an unequal fight, and we don't have sufficient strength."

Al-Nujaifi, the new speaker, briefly joined the walkout but then returned. Parliament eventually voted in President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for a second term. Talabani then chose Maliki for a second term as prime minister and asked him to form a cabinet.

Many observers and officials had warned against forming a government that would exclude Iraqiya and its Sunni backers, warning that it could reopen Iraq's sectarian divides and lead to more violence.

"The only way to get rid of violence is to build institutions of the state based on power sharing and to have a real reconciliation program going on in Iraq," Allawi said. "Violence is already there and if they want secular Shias and Sunnis to be second-class citizens, this is unacceptable."

A big outcome from Thursday's events, he said, has been an evaporation of trust. "Even if they come to me and say, "We are going to make this in the future,' I am not going to trust them," he said.

Meanwhile, the Iraqiya list has issued a one-month deadline for various demands to be met. Allawi said he expects the list members will boycott Saturday's parliament session and that he will not accept a government role.

"I will not be a part of this theater," he said, adding that he is thinking of forming an opposition in parliament.