[QODLink]
Middle East

Iraq PM warns of Syria crisis spillover

Nouri al-Maliki says most dangerous outcome for Syria is an opposition victory as it will lead to sectarian war in Iraq.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 02:45
Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki said the only 'peaceful solution' for Syria is through dialogue [EPA]

Iraq's prime minister has warned that a victory for rebels in the Syrian civil war will create a new extremist haven and destabilise the wider Middle East, sparking a sectarian war in his own country, a civil war in Lebanon and a division in Jordan.

Nouri al-Maliki stopped short of voicing outright support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled regime.

But his comments in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday marked one of his strongest warnings yet about the turmoil that the collapse of the Syrian government could create.

"If the world does not agree to support a peaceful solution through dialogue ... then I see no light at the end of the tunnel,'' al-Maliki said.

"Neither the opposition nor the regime can finish each other off," he continued. "The most dangerous thing in this process is that if the opposition is victorious, there will be a civil war in Lebanon, divisions in Jordan and a sectarian war in Iraq."

Iraq has tried to maintain a neutral stance toward the civil war in Syria, saying that the aspirations of the Syrian people should be met through peaceful means.

Washington has criticised Baghdad, however, for doing too little to stop flights suspected of carrying Iranian arms to Syria from transiting Iraqi airspace.

Al-Maliki emphatically denied aiding the arms transfers: "Not to the regime and not to the opposition. No weapon is being transferred through Iraqi skies, territories or waters,'' he said.

The Iraqi leader's comments come as his government confronts growing tensions of its own between the Shia majority and an increasingly restive Sunni minority nearly a decade after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

'Sunni-Shia strife'

The war in Syria has sharp sectarian overtones, with predominantly Sunni rebels fighting a regime dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Assad's main allies are Shia Iran and the Shia group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also warned on Wednesday against sectarian infighting in Lebanon related to the Syrian civil war.

"There are some who are working night and day and pushing the country toward civil and religious strife, and specifically Sunni-Shia strife," Nasrallah said on the group's Al-Manar TV.

If this were to happen, he said, it would "destroy everyone and burn down the entire country."

Nasrallah denied accusations by the Syrian opposition that members of the group were fighting alongside forces loyal to the Assad regime, and reiterated that some Shia in villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border, including Hezbollah members, have taken up arms in self-defense against Sunni gunmen.

397

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
People are starving in southern Somalia while relief efforts are blocked by government and rebel fighting.
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Experts from Minamata, Japan check for signs of mercury illnesses in Ontario, Canada.
join our mailing list