Former Iraqi PM says ‘big disaster’ to come

Iraq is on the verge of deeper disaster, and the violence that kills hundreds of people every week will only get worse in the months ahead, the country’s first post-Saddam prime minister said on Monday.Iyad Allawi, who headed Iraq’s post-invasion government for six months from June 2004, said he saw little sign that sectarianism or terrorism would die down soon, and that he feared US troops would start to withdraw next year. “The country is slipping into more chaos, more sectarianism and more divisions,” Allawi, who now spends much of his time in London, told Reuters in an interview.

“The bloodshed is becoming appalling and unacceptable, and frankly I cannot see the political process continuing as it is now because the country is on the verge of a big disaster.

“The insurgency is stronger than ever, and it’s getting stronger, and it’s going to go on getting stronger. I think what we see now is less than what we will see in a few months …Reconciliation is further away than at any time in the past.” In the latest devastating attack, a suicide truck bomb killed at least 85 people on Monday in a busy market in the city of Kirkuk, where tensions are already high between the various ethnic groups that claim the city as their own.

Allawi, a former member of Saddam’s Baath party who went into exile for nearly 30 years during Saddam’s rule and returned as an ally of the United States, said he expected US troops to start pulling out next year. A US withdrawal “will become imminent next year, it’s going to take place in any case”, Allawi said. “No one should expect the United States to remain in Iraq forever. They are going to pull out, but unfortunately the Iraqi forces are not ready yet.” US President George W. Bush has urged critics to await a report in September assessing the effect on security in Iraq of a “surge” of roughly 30,000 extra US troops.

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