Iraq's first postwar premier has called for early elections, alleging that the administration of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has orchestrated a campaign of persecution against his opponents and should be replaced, according to an interview published Friday in a British newspaper.

Ayad Allawi, whose name has been raised as a possible successor to al-Maliki, said that al-Maliki had orchestrated a campaign of persecution of his political opponents, according to The Daily Telegraph interview. He claimed that al-Maliki's Dawa Party was using tactics used by Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take control in the 1960s.

"This is what we call a system of intimidation as it used to happen in Saddam's times," Allawi was quoted as saying. "It is the same system, even worse."

"This is how the Baath Party took over in the coup of 1968. There was a kind of coalition, but gradually they built their own security and their own intelligence and their own hit teams."

Allawi suggested that al-Maliki had set up parallel lines of direct communication with military units under the prime minister's control.

"He is perceived by many as having created a second, and politically motivated, chain of command," Allawi said.

Allawi, a former exile and surgeon who was once a member of Saddam's Baath Party, became the first postwar prime minister in 2004 at the head of an interim government. In the country's first post-Saddam elections in 2005, Allawi, a secular Shiite, and his party were routed by a coalition of religious Shiites.

Allawi called for al-Maliki to be replaced by a caretaker prime minister and for early elections to be held before more violence afflicts the country.

"We should not miss the great number of Iraqis still outside the political process," he was quoted as saying. "Go to the extent of having a caretaker government to have early elections where all have a chance to participate in a newly formed parliament."

He could not be reached to independently confirm the comments and aides said they had no information about the interview.

Ousting al-Maliki, a longtime Shiite political activist, would require a majority vote in the 275-member Iraqi parliament. As long as the Kurdish parties and the main Shiite bloc stand beside al-Maliki, his opponents lack the votes.

Some of the remaining Shiite and Kurdish support for al-Maliki is based on fear of what might happen if he were to go. Under the constitution, the entire Cabinet would have to be dissolved, and all ministries would be up for grabs.

Deciding who would get the nearly 40 Cabinet-level posts could take months, paralyzing the government and perhaps jeopardizing recent security gains. That is as unpalatable a prospect for U.S. policy-makers as it is frightening for many Iraqis.

Allawi, a secular Shiite favored by some of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors, is on a short list of names that have been circulated as possible alternatives to al-Maliki. But his previous administration was tainted by corruption and is mistrusted by Shiite religious parties.

Al-Maliki, who has led a shaky, troubled Cabinet since May 2006, has expressed hope that he will get his Cabinet back up to strength after the walkout in early August by the mainly Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front. The prime minister has challenged the Sunni politicians to return.