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Negroponte Meets With
Iraqi Resistance Scholars

Muslim Scholars' Leader Rejects
"Sunni v. Shiite" Election Spin, 24th Jan, 2004 07:00ET
by Fintan Dunne, Editor

The US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte recently met with Dr. Harith Al-Dhari, leader of the Muslim Scholars Association to discuss Iraqi security and the elections. The association, which speaks as a de facto intellectual and religious voice of the Iraqi resistance, opposes the scheduled Jan 30, 2004 elections.

An account of their meeting comes in an interview with Al-Dhari by Mohamed Al-Anwar, published in the Cairo Jan 20-26 edition of AL-AHRAM. Al-Dhari said the meeting had been arranged through French diplomats at Negroponte's request.

In the interview Al-Dhari confirms earlier reports that his group offered to reverse its position on the election, once given a timetable for an American forces withdrawal.

Their stance on the election, Al-Dhari told Negroponte --was because of continuing violence by occupation forces which had left in excess of 100,000 Iraqis dead, and their conviction that supporting the election would only delay an eventual end to the occupation.

In the interview, Al-Dhari also rejected a simplistic view that differing positions on the election by the Shiite leader Ali Al-Sistani and the main Sunni groups could pit the two against each other. He said the people opposing the election are not just Sunni. Al-Dhari maintains that more that 70 political parties from all ethnic and religious affiliations have withdrawn from the election, and that some Shia tribes also oppose the election.

"The opposition is national, not sectarian as others have described it," said Al-Dhari.

Since the meeting, U.S. officials publicly rejected the deal offered, but did not disclose that Negroponte had requested or attended the meeting.

Dr Harith al-Dhari is considered Iraq's most notable Arab Sunni scholar. He said death threats had been made against him, some from official sources.

In August, 2004 US occupation forces arrested Dr Muthana Harith al-Dhari the editor of al-Basaer newspaper (Insight) and media officer for the Association of Muslim Scholars.

   Article thanks to GI Special



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