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Allawi: Rights Abuses Worsening

Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein and could become even worse, the country's former interim prime minister said in an interview published Sunday.

"People are doing the same as Saddam's time and worse," Ayad Allawi told The Observer newspaper. "It is an appropriate comparison."

Allawi accused fellow Shiites in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centers and said the brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police.

Although Allawi is a Shiite, he is secular in his politics and is running separately from the Shiite religious parties in the Dec. 15 election. His comments appear to be an attempt to appeal to Sunni voters, who claim their community has been unfairly targeted by the Shiite-led security forces.

"People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Iraqi officials have played down reports of rights abuses, insisting they are lies created by their enemies.