Middle East

Saudi media attacks Iraq PM over Syria stance

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, center, leaves after attending the Arab economic, finance and trade ministers meeting as part of Arab League Summit in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Ali Haider, Pool)

RIYADH: Saudi newspapers on Tuesday waged a scathing campaign against Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over his implicit criticism of the kingdom and Qatar for their calls to arm Syrian rebels.

"Gulf (states) should boycott Maliki and his government," wrote Tariq al-Homayed, the editor of Asharq al-Awsat, calling for the "punishment of all who stand with the tyrant of Damascus, first and foremost Maliki's government."

"Boycott him to prevent the emergence of a new Saddam or another Bashar," wrote Homayed in the Saudi owned pan-Arab daily referring to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

The Saudi media campaign against Maliki came after the Iraqi prime minister said Baghdad rejected "any arming (of Syrian rebels) and the process to overthrow the Assad regime," arguing that the call by Qatar and Saudi to arm Syrian rebels "will leave a greater crisis in the region."

He also cautioned that "those countries that are interfering in Syria's internal affairs will interfere in the internal affairs of any country."

Maliki's comments followed what media reports said was an "official visit" that began Sunday to Qatar by Iraq's fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, who is accused of running a death squad.

The Al-Riyadh daily's Tuesday editorial struck at Iraq's strong ties to neighbouring Iran, questioning Maliki's allegiances.

"Is Maliki a voice for Iran or the ruler of Iraq?" said the editorial noting that "the Syrian people revolted against injustices similar to those suffered by Iraq under Saddam."

The newspaper argued that Maliki appears more concerned with the rise of the Sunnis to power in Damascus.

The Syria crisis has raised sectarian tensions, as its minority rulers are Alawites -- an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- who are trying to cling to power by brutally suppressing an uprising by the country's majority Sunnis.

In Iraq, a Shiite government came to power after the 2003 US-led invasion ousted Saddam, whose Sunni regime marginalised the country's Shiites for decades.

The Asharq al-Watan meanwhile described Maliki's prediction that Assad's regime "will not fall" as "laughable", noting that his stance on the year-long uprising in Syria is not "out of love for the Damascus regime but rather because of )his) bias towards the stance of (his) Iranian ally."





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