BAGHDAD, Iraq – Leaders of the mostly Shiite Muslim ticket said Monday they have no intention of establishing an Iranian-style Islamic state in Iraq if they sweep next weekend's national elections.
They also vowed not to be dragged into a civil war by retaliating against Sunni extremist attacks on the Shiite community.
The ticket is widely expected to fare best in Sunday's elections, which many Sunni Arabs are expected to boycott.
The list is headed by a cleric, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim (search), leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (search), the country's largest political group. Nevertheless, key figures on the list told reporters they do not foresee clerical rule in Iraq.
"No, no," insisted Education Minister Sami Mudahfar when asked about clerical rule. "I don't think so."
He noted that the list includes secular-minded candidates and "each individual on the list has his own ideas which differ from than the others."
As the elections draw near, attacks on Shiite Muslims have increased in what appears to be an attempt by Sunni Arab insurgents to scare Shiites from voting.
On Friday, a Shiite mosque was targeted with a car bomb, killing 14 and wounding 40. Later that day, a suicide attacker driving an ambulance detonated his vehicle at a Shiite wedding south of Baghdad. At least seven people died.
Still, Shiite candidates said they would not respond to the attacks in kind.
"We believe that we have no justifications, whether religious or political, to escalate the situation and enter into the civil war quagmire because it means the Balkanization of Iraq or the Lebanonization of Iraq," said Khudayer al-Khuzai of the Islamic Dawa Party-Iraq (search).
"Continuing to be patient is better for us, for Iraq and for Iraqis than entering a civil war that will be destructive," he said.