by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Thursday announced a broad-based 40-party political bloc to run inthe country's coming elections against his old Shiite allies, confirming his intention to build stronger central government.
In a speech at Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Maliki unveiled that his State of Law Coalition includes, besides his own party, other parties from Shiite community and Sunni tribal groups as well as candidates from other Iraqi minorities.
"Today we announce the formation of the State of Law Coalition to contest in the January 16 elections, to build a powerful, secure and independent federal state that would guarantee the people' rights and freedoms, based on justice, equality and the law," Maliki told dozens of politicians and reporters at a gathering held at the al-Rasheed Hotel.
"The birth of State of Law Coalition represents a historic turnout and a typical development in establishing a modern Iraq state based on patriotic principles, far from the policies of marginalization, discrimination and tyranny," Maliki said.
The Iraqi prime minister also called for establishing a "strong central government that has the power of making decisions, which relies on the constitution and dialogue to settle the country's problems."
"We reaffirm that sovereignty, security, foreign policy and running the country's natural wealth will be the responsibility of the central government," Maliki elaborated the coalition's view on the future of Iraq after the landmark elections due in January.
Sheikh Sa'ad Fawzy Abu Rishah, a Sunni Arab tribal leader from the once Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province in western Iraq, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the gathering that he joined Maliki's coalition because "we find ourselves on the same ground of building a strong Iraqi state away from sectarianism, which would serve all the Iraqi factions without marginalization."
Maliki also pledged to fight terrorism and not to let Shiite and Sunni militia to resume their hostilities, saying that "weapons must be in the hands of the state and should keep the Iraqi army and police away from political and narrow-party impacts."
He stressed the necessity of "building the Iraqi security forces on patriotic and vocational bases to take over the full control of Iraq's security after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011."
Sheikh Rasheed Waheed al-Juboury, a Shiite tribal leader from Diwaniyah, some 180 km south of Baghdad, confirmed to Xinhua that "Maliki is the man who managed to hit all the militia and the outlaws apart from their sects and ethnicity."
Another Shiite Sheikh from the city of Nassriyah, some 375 km southeast of Baghdad, also told Xinhua that he is satisfied to join Maliki's coalition "because he opposes sectarianism and has clear patriotic stances toward all Iraqis who, I am sure, now will vote for the strong and nationalist Maliki after we have suffered a lot from the sectarianism."
As regards to his coalition's view on Iraq's foreign policy, Maliki underscored the coalition's keenness to develop strong relations with all the countries in the world and to settle all the pending problems with Iraq's neighboring nations.
"We shall not allow any state to interfere in our internal affairs," he said, warning that Iraq "will revise its relations with any state that fails to respect Iraq's sovereignty and interferes in its internal affairs."
In 2005, Maliki's Dawa Party was part of a broader Shiite alliance that garnered a majority of Iraq's 275-seat parliament.
His former Shiite partners have gathered again to form their own group, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), which includes the influential Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) of Ammar al-Hakim, who succeeded his father Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who died in hospital in Iran last month after a long battle with cancer. It also includes loyalists of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The INA is the new version of the former United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) which won the majority in 2005 elections. It is now the leading Shiite alliance and the largest group in the country's parliament. On Aug. 24, the INA published a list of election candidates which excluded Maliki's Dawa Party.
Campaigning for candidates under a State of Law Coalition banner in the provincial elections which took place early in 2009,Maliki's allies won a resounding victory, taking the majority of votes in Baghdad and eight of Iraq's nine Shiite-dominated provinces.
His latest success enabled him to stay away from the main Shiite alliance that had helped him score the prime minister's post.
In August, Maliki said he was breaking away from his ruling alliance, and aiming to establish a broader coalition including tribal Sunni leaders as well as Shiite candidates.
Earlier in the day, Hassan al-Seneid, a Shiite politician close to Maliki, said over 30 other political movements and parties are still negotiating to join Maliki's coalition.