AP Interview: Iraqi premier warns fall of Syria's Assad would will spark war in Iraq, Lebanon

Iraq's prime minister cautions that a victory for rebels fighting to overthrow the government in neighboring Syria will spark a sectarian war in his own country and Lebanon That would create a new haven for al-Qaida that would destabilize the whole Middle East.

The candid warning from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press was his strongest statement yet about the instability that could follow the toppling of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It comes as his government confronts growing tensions of its own between Iraq's Shiite majority and an increasingly restive Sunni minority, nearly a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.

Fighting in Syria is increasingly taking on sectarian overtones, with predominantly Sunni rebels battling a regime mostly made up of Alawites, an offshoot Shiite group.