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Interview: Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mahdi

Dr. Mahdi talked to Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf about upcoming national elections, Iraq's security and economic issues, and relations with Iraq's neighbors.

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No country should live without an opposition – opposition is very normal. But what is not normal is the armed opposition and the opposition cooperating with terrorists. There was cooperation [between Iraq] with the neighboring countries, with Syria itself, and the rate of infiltration decreased according to all reports, so we think this should continue. Now, dealing with Syria on another basis and a more aggressive basis, in our view, is not useful. Cooperation, negotiation is the way to deal with those people trying to use the Syrian territories, and we should get the cooperation of the Syrian government. This is very important. Now cutting off or rupturing our relationship with Syria would be harmful. There is no end to that…. We can’t see [how to achieve] a mechanism of controlling those people without having real negotiations and contacts. Now, after the bombings – going directly to put it on Syria or those living in Syria was a [hasty] movement that should have been studied much more carefully with the presidency, with the parliament, before taking strategic decisions such as going to the international court as in any of the other decisions that we have, and the presidency issued a statement on that.

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Do you believe the people they caught, one of whom confessed on television, were actually the people behind the bombing?

This I will leave to the security authorities.

And Iran? Is Iranian interference in Iraq a problem?

Well, Iran, other neighboring countries … all came from a certain history of wars, interferences and ways of dealing with a weak Iraq. All this should be stopped. Of course. Iranians are interested in the situation in Iraq as much as Americans and neighboring countries, and Iraq is a victim of regional and international disputes that use Iraq for agendas and all interferences coming from Iran, from Saudi Arabia, from any other neighboring country, from Syria should be stopped by dialogue and diplomatic channels.

Are weapons and fighters coming from Iran a significant problem?

Now it’s less than before. Now we can see less action coming from Iran than before. Now we have a problem from Al Qaeda in Iraq, from former Baathists much more than JAM (Jaish al-Mahdi) or any other group that was working before.

Regarding the Baathists … there’s a sense on the part of Shiite leaders that there is a persistent, ever-present threat by Baathists to return things the way they were and that seems to alienate not just Baathists or former Baathists but the entire Sunni population. Is that a worry to you that the population itself on the political level isn’t reconciled?

Well, the majority of Baathists are Shiite. It is true, maybe not the leadership, but the Baathists themselves. Because Iraq has a majority of Shiites … accordingly any national party working in Iraq should have a majority of Shiites. That was the case of the Communist party, that was the case even up to 1963, even in the leadership of the Baath party, they were mostly Shiites, and Saddam Hussein in his interview with the FBI published by the Middle East Arab newspapers said that, and we know that from studies.

But those presumably are not the Baathists you’re worried about now?

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