President Mubarak Sours Egypt's Relations with Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran
President Hosni Mubarak in a televised interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said yesterday Iraq is in the middle of a civil war that threatened the Middle East and that Iraq's and Arab Shiites' allegiance is to Iran, hinting to Iran's influence in Arab countries.
Mubarak said there are Shiites in all these countries (of the region), significant percentages, and Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live."
In Iraq, Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, flanked by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Adnan al-Pachachi, a Sunni and the parliament's acting speaker said the comments have upset Iraqi people who come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and has astonished and discontented the Iraqi government.
The statement read by Jaafari said Sunday "We are astonished that Egypt identifies Iraq's security problems as a civil war. Our people are still far away from any sectarian conflict or a civil war."
Expressing his anguish at Mubarak's statements, Talabani said these "accusations against our Shiite brothers are baseless and we have asked our foreign minister to talk to Egypt about this."
Around 90 percent of Iran's nearly 70 million people are Shiites who make frequent pilgrimage to Iraq which is burial place of six of 12 revered Shiite Imams (religious leaders).
There are also significant Shiite populations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
In Kuwait, Shiite MPs and clerics have demanded an official apology from President Mubarak over his controversial comments about their loyalty to Iran..
MP Hassan Jowhar told a press conference in parliament attended Sunday by three of five Kuwaiti Shiite MPs "We are not begging for certificates of loyalty to our countries from Mubarak or others. These are irresponsible statements... and only serve to incite sectarian rifts. Nothing can satisfy Shiites except a clear official apology from President Mubarak..."
Almost one-third of Kuwait's native population of one million are Shiite. The leader of the Congregation of Muslim Shiite Scholars in Kuwait, Sayed Mohammad Baqer al-Mahri, said Shiites living in the Gulf were loyal to their countries.
In Iran, Tehran on Sunday insisted it was using its influence to stabilise Iraq after President Mubarak expressed alarm about Shiite Iran's sway in the Arab world.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters "It is evident that the Islamic Republic of Iran is only interested in seeking security and stability in Iraq, and the region."
Mubarakism, Mubarak: majority of Shia Muslims more loyal to Iran than their own states