Sunni Politician Calls Bombing a Warning

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Sunni politicians have pulled out of talks on a new unity government in Iraq. Steve Inskeep talks with Sunni politician Saleh Mutlaq about the political fall-out of the Samarra bombing. Mutlaq says the bombing was a warning from the insurgents that they do not want to see a coalition government.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Iraq's government is enforcing a curfew today in Baghdad. That is significant because Friday is the Muslim day of prayer. People are being told to stay home to prevent any more sectarian attacks. Nearly 200 people, many of them Sunni Muslims, have died in the violent reprisals that followed Wednesday's bombing of a major Shiite Muslim shrine.

This morning we've called a Sunni leader. Saleh Mutlag is head of the National Dialogue Council, and he joins us once again from Baghdad. Welcome to the program again.

Mr. SALEH MUTLAQ (Sunni Leader): Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Sir, people have been raising the possibility of an all out civil war in Iraq following this mosque attack and the reprisals for it. Are you concerned about a civil war?

Mr. MUTLAQ: Well, I'm concerned and everybody in Iraq is very concerned about it, a civil war maybe at the beginning. But actually what's happening now is not a real civil war. It is a war between some sectarian parties from the Shia. Again it's (unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Do you think that this week's major event, the bombing of the Shiite shrine, the Golden Dome in Samarra, was an attempt to cause a civil war?

Mr. MUTLAQ: Actually, I think that it was a plan. The Shiite coalition has got a very big division among them. And the plan was, somebody wants to unite them, and the only way they can unite them is to create such an incident.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that you are going to accuse Shiites of destroying one their own must important shrines, sir?

Mr. MUTLAQ: (Unintelligible) some foreign intelligence from outside.

INSKEEP: Foreign intelligence from outside?

Mr. MUTLAQ: What exactly I mean is the Iran intervention.

INSKEEP: Given that this attack on the Shiite shrine took place in mostly Sunni city, where Iraqi insurgents who are associated with Sunnis have been very active, don't you think it's possible that a Sunni group might be responsible or that al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been supported by some Sunnis, might be responsible?

Mr. MUTLAQ: I don't believe that is being done by the insurgents.

INSKEEP: Is this a moment of greater tension, do you think, then at previous tense moments in the last three years?

Mr. MUTLAQ: This time is the most dangerous moment and the most devastating that Iraq is passing, maybe in its history. We are really very close to a bloody war, which is going to hurt a lot of people. But everybody is working hard now to absorb it. I think it's going to be disaster for the Iraqis.

INSKEEP: Saleh Mutlaq is the head of the National Dialogue Counsel, a Sunni group in Iraq. Thanks very much for speaking with us.

Mr. MUTLAQ: Thank you very much.

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