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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Iraqi ambassador to Iran summoned for 'misconduct'

Rageh Al Musawi caused anger after video showed him shouting at Iraqis

Iraj Masjedi, center, the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, speaks to reporters during the reopening of the Iranian consulate in Basra. AP
Iraj Masjedi, center, the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, speaks to reporters during the reopening of the Iranian consulate in Basra. AP

Iraq's Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to Tehran on Thursday amid widespread criticism that he shouted at Iraqi nationals residing in Iran over unrest in the southern city of Basra.

Footage circulating on social media of Iraq's envoy to Tehran Rageh Al Musawi angered Iraqis after he acted with "irresponsibility" during a visit to a Shiite mosque in Iran's southern city of Dolat Abad.

Baghdad's envoy was asked questions by Iraqis about the dire situation that the country is facing, particularly in Basra where a health crisis has caused deadly protests. Mr Al Musawi responded by shouting "I’m not on trial. Ask your [Iraqi] prime minister and his government".

It promoted the foreign ministry to investigate accusations that he rebuked Iraqi nationals residing in Iran.

"Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari has ordered Mr Al Musawi's immediate return to Baghdad amid accusations that he had engaged in irresponsible behavior towards Iraqi nations residing in Iran," Ahmed Mahjoob, the ministry's spokesman said in a statement.

An investigation will be opened and legal measures will be taken, the spokesman said.

Britain's ambassador to Iraq also upset his hosts on Thursday by revealing that he had met his Iranian counterpart to address problems that have delayed the formation of a new government in Baghdad.

In what quickly earned him a rebuke from the Iraq's foreign ministry, British envoy Jon Wilks tweeted about his meeting with Iraj Masjedi, who served as a close adviser to Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, the foreign wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

In his tweet, Mr Wilks called on the next Iraqi administration to improve its delivery of services and jobs.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said it was surprised to see the discussions focused on the next government.

"The formation of the next Iraqi government is and will be purely based on national interest,”Mr Mahjoob said, adding that the parliament is the only legal entity that can dictate the tasks of the next administration.

Squabbling over the next Iraqi government continued in the country after Kurdistan's Democratic Party (KDP) rejected the nomination of Barham Salih for the presidency post on Thursday.

Power in Iraq is shared among the three largest ethnic-sectarian components – the prime minister is a Shiite Arab, the speaker of parliament a Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

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Read more:

Iraqi Shiite leader quits prime minister race

Iraqi PM Haider Al Abadi faces calls to quit over deadly violence in Basra

US calls for 'moderate, nationalist' government ahead of Iraqi parliament opening

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The KDP is currently the largest political party in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq. It won 25 seats in May's national elections, and a presidential candidate must have its approval before being elected by parliament in Baghdad.

"We held talks with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and agreed that we should have only nominate one candidate for the presidency of Iraq, unfortunately they announced that Mr Salah is their sole candidate without our consultation," a KDP official, Janhis Awakalay, told The National.

The PUK selected Mr Salih – who left the party last year to form the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) – as their sole candidate for the top post. He defeated Latif Rashid and Moahmmed Sabir, winning the internal party election by 26 votes.

"We [KDP] prefer to negotiate and choose a joint Kurdish candidate that most Kurdish political parties agreed upon. We strongly believe that presidency is our entitlement," Mr Awakalay said.

The party has yet to put forward a candidate while two other Kurds – former Goran MP Sardar Abdullah and Omar Barzinji, Iraq’s ambassador to Rome – are nominating themselves as independent candidates.

"The KDP has officially told the PUK that this time it aims to take the Presidency since it has been with PUK for 12 years, and election results entitle the KDP to ask for that," Kurdistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Falah Mustafa, told The National.

Mr Salih, a former Kurdish prime minister left the PUK in 2017 to campaign against corruption, a major source of strife in Iraq and Kurdistan.

However, PUK spokesman Saadi Ahmed said Mr Salih plans to return to his former party as deputy secretary general while still maintaining his place as the head of the CDJ.

The newly-created CDJ fared poorly in the May elections.

The position of president has been held by members of the PUK, the late Jalal Talabani and current president Fuad Masum, since the removal of former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.