Shiites and Kurds Attempt to Oust Sunni Speaker

Shiite and Kurdish parties are organizing a bid to oust the Sunni parliament speaker whose comments about the insurgency and regional self-rule have angered and embarrassed key political groups.

The ouster of Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, which could be done by a vote when the parliament returns from its summer recess Sept. 1, would be the first major shake-up in the government of national unity that took office last May.

CountryWatch: Iraq

However, it is likely that al-Mashhadani would be replaced by another Sunni Arab if the move against him succeeds.

Reached by phone early Tuesday, al-Mashhadani's son said his father was not available to speak to the media and he declined to comment.

Shiite and Kurdish parties already have informed al-Mashhadani's Iraqi Accordance Front that they want him replaced, Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said.

"The parliament and the major alliances have the right to request a change," Othman said. "The Accordance Front should nominate someone else. There's been an agreement about that."

Key politicians from the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance confirmed Othman's comments, but they spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want the move to be seen as Shiite-inspired.

Since taking office in May, al-Mashhadani has spoken out against regional self-rule, strongly supported by Shiites and Kurds but opposed by many Sunni Arabs.

He told reporters last month that if the government refused to grant amnesty to Sunni insurgents who killed Americans, "we should punish the American soldiers who killed an Iraqi who fought against occupation."

"In my point of view, the person who killed Americans in defense of his country, in other countries, they would build a statue for him," al-Mashhadani added.

He also told reporters that "the Jews" were financing acts of violence in Iraq in order to discredit Islamic religious parties that control parliament and the government.

"Some people say, `We saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,"' al-Mashhadani said. "These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."

Wael Abdul Latif, spokesman for the secular bloc of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said his group also opposed al-Mashhadani because he "is disrespectful."

"His presence does not help the security situation in Iraq," Abdul Latif said. "He wants to dismiss the will of the people, which has been expressed by the Iraqis through their support to federalism in the constitution."

Salim Abdullah, a member of al-Mashhadani's alliance, said he was aware of displeasure with the speaker and indicated his group would not mount a major fight to retain him in the post.

"The Iraqi street wants stability. I do not support change, but I cannot support him staying if that's going to have a negative effect," he said. "We respect the choices of other alliances, and we are reviewing alternatives."