Iraqi Leader Criticizes U.S.-Led Coalition

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Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer warned in an interview published Monday that long-term instability and violence in his country could create the conditions for an "Iraqi Hitler" to emerge.

"If the situation in Iraq will continue like this, it will create within the Iraqi people feelings of bitterness, rage and humiliation which will provide, in the long run, an appropriate environment for an Iraqi Hitler to appear similar to the German Hitler who emerged after Germany's defeat and the humiliation of the German people in World War I," al-Yawer was quoted as saying in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

In a separate interview in London, where al-Yawer made a brief stop after visiting the United States, the interim president said the U.S.-led coalition was wrong to dismantle the Iraqi security forces after last year's invasion.

"Definitely dissolving the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior was a big mistake at that time," al-Yawer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"We could have screened people out instead of screening them in, and this could have saved us a lot of hassle and problems," he said.

Critics of the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion say the decision to disband the 350,000-strong Iraqi army and to purge the state of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party has contributed to chaos and helped fuel insurgency in postwar Iraq.

Al-Yawer said the security situation wouldn't be resolved unless Iraq's own security forces were "100 percent efficient."

"We have to reinstate some of the clean-record army officers and police officers," he told the BBC.

"As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on, we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners. And I think it doesn't take years, it will take months."

The Iraqi president said he feared insurgents would intensify their campaign of violence in the run-up to elections on Jan. 30.

"Their tactical target is to undermine the electoral process and to stop us having our first elections," he said.

Al-Yawer also said neighboring countries were interfering in Iraqi affairs.

"There are so many people crossing the border from neighboring countries, specifically Iran," he said. "I think there are some elements of official Iran, I don't mean the whole government, (who) are playing a role in organizing and financing things in Iraq preparing for the elections."

He didn't say what activities he believed the Iranians were involved in.

Al-Yawer also said he believed elements of the Syrian security services were harboring insurgents. "(Syria) is a country that is run by security ... and definitely they cannot operate from Syria unless there is somebody who is condoning what they are doing," he said.

Stability in Iraq was in the interest of its neighbors, he added.

"When a fire breaks out in your neighbor's house, you should put it out quickly, not only for the sake of your neighbor but also so that you are not forced to extinguish in your home when it spreads there," he said.