Iraq’s foreign minister vowed Monday not to be intimidated as politicians from around the world expressed sorrow and anger over the killing of the U.S.-appointed president of the Iraqi Governing Council in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad.
Abdel-Zahraa Othman, also known as Izzadine Saleem, was among six Iraqis killed Monday in a car bombing near a U.S. checkpoint. In September, council member Aquila al-Hashimi died five days after gunmen in a pickup truck ambushed her car.
”The Iraqi leaders are the main targets of those terrorists and anti-democratic forces, and we will not be intimidated from continuing our path to build a new Iraq,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said, noting al-Hashimi’s death as well in remarks at the World Economic Forum being held at the Dead Sea.
British and Australian officials, partners of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq expressed their outrage. Amr Moussa, head of a 22-nation Arab League that has been wary of American influence in Iraq, said he was sorry to hear the news: ”It reflects the tense situation in Iraq.”
The attack took place amid rising turmoil in Iraq as it prepares for the United States to transfer power to an Iraqi interim government June 30. Saleem, a Shiite Muslim and leader of the Islamic Dawa Movement in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, was in a convoy of five vehicles at a U.S. checkpoint when the car next to his exploded. Five other Iraqis also were killed.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office condemned the killing, saying Saleem and his colleagues had been working ”to give Iraq a future of freedom, democracy and security, all of which are goals rejected by the terrorists.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, calling the attackers ”enemies of the Iraqi people,” said Saleem’s death should not deter the transfer of power. ”What this shows is that the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are trying to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from the occupiers to the Iraqi people,” Straw said in Brussels, Belgium, on arriving for a European Union foreign ministers meeting.
Prime Minister John Howard, whose country has about 800 troops in and around Iraq, said he was ”horrified” by a killing that showed some Iraqis were determined to block democracy in Iraq.
Jordanian government spokeswoman Asma Khader said Jordan always condemns political assassinations targeting civilians.
”It is not allowed to adopt political assassination as a means to express attitude and ignore necessary political solutions,” she said.
Shortly before the deadly blast, King Abdullah II warned a small group of reporters covering the economic forum at the Dead Sea that the transfer of sovereignty would be difficult and said that getting stability on the ground will require ”some pretty dramatic moves.”
Governing Council members do not appear to be very popular among ordinary Iraqis, he said, noting that many of them were Iraqi exiles who returned from abroad after Saddam Hussein was ousted in April 2003. Saleem had lived in exile in Iran for about 25 years before returning to Iraq.