Chalabi meets with Sistani: “UN can be Convinced”
Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite member of the Interim Governing Council, met for 90 minutes with Grand Ayatollah Sistani and emerged to declare that he was sure the United Nations team now in Iraq could be convinced of the feasibility of direct elections. Chalabi had initially opposed such open elections when Sistani initially insisted on them, but gradually he came to support them. He also insisted that sovereignty would be turned over on schedule by the US to an Iraqi government, on June 30.
Chalabi, a multimillionaire dogged by charges of massive fraud in the past, may have concluded that he could use his wealth to ensure his election if open polls took place.
Meanwhile, the UN team met for three hours with the Interim Governing Council. Muhsin Abdul Hamid, the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party [Muslim Brotherhood], said the mission was welcome, according to the London daily al-Hayat, attempting to reverse the impression his statement of two days ago had given, when he insisted that the IGC would not be bound by the team’s recommendations. The newspaper also revealed that Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani now supports direct elections. The issue is therefore not just a sectarian one, between Sunnis and Shiites, though most of the Shiites support direct elections and several of the Sunnis (including Abd al-Hamid) oppose them.
Abdul Mahdi al-Islami al-Karbala’i, Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s representative in Karbala, insisted to al-Hayat that Iraq must have a strong central government. If he represents Sistani’s thinking, this stance could presage a battle between the Shiites and the Kurds, who want a weak Switzerland-type federation.