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Baghdad Questions Tillerson’s Remarks on PMF, Brands them Meddling in Internal Affairs

Baghdad Questions Tillerson’s Remarks on PMF, Brands them Meddling in Internal Affairs

Monday, 23 October, 2017 - 12:00
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Reuters)

The media office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi questioned on Monday the recent remarks of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), labeling them an interference in the country’s internal affairs.

A source close to Abadi said: “No one has the right to meddle in Iraqi affairs.”

Tillerson had said on Sunday it was time for the Iraqi PMF and their Iranian advisers to “go home,” in wake of the defeat of the terrorist ISIS group.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish authorities said Monday they had issued arrest warrants for 11 Iraqis including lawmakers and leaders in the PMF, in an apparent tit-for-tat move after Baghdad took similar measures.

The prosecution in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan said in a statement it had issued the warrants for 11 people and asked a court in regional capital Irbil to take legal steps to pursue the matter.

Among those targeted is Qais al-Khazali, founder and leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iran-backed Shi’ite militia that is one of the main components of the PMF.

Also facing an arrest warrant issued by the Kurds are Rayan al-Kaldani, the head of a Christian group present in Nineveh in northern Iraq and Mosul. Lawmaker Hanan al-Fatlawi also faces arrest.

Tensions have been high between Arbil and Baghdad since the Kurds organized an independence vote on September 25, which Iraq's supreme court deemed unconstitutional.

Since then, Baghdad courts have issued several arrest warrants for Kurdish leaders on several charges.

On Sunday, an Iraqi anti-corruption task force said it had issued a warrant for the arrest of Babaker Zebari, a Kurd and former Iraqi army chief of staff, over misappropriation of public funds.

A statement from the anti-corruption body said Zebari is accused of having gifted "civilians seven vehicles that belonged to the defense ministry".

On Thursday, a warrant was issued for the vice president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Kosrat Rasul, on charges of "provocation" against Iraq's armed forces.

Earlier this month, another court ordered the arrest of the three senior Kurdish officials responsible for organizing the independence referendum.

Later on Monday, head of the electoral commission Hendrean Mohammed told Reuters that elections for Iraq's Kurdistan region's presidency and parliament set for November 1 will be delayed because political parties failed to present candidates.

Mohammed, speaking by phone from the region’s capital Irbil, in northern Iraq, said it is up to the Kurdistan parliament to fix a new date for the elections. The deadline to present candidates expired last week and was extended until Monday.

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