Government minister lashes out at U.S. troops
By Faiz Jawad
, Kuwait

A government minister has openly lambasted U.S. occupation of the country, blaming it for the upsurge in violence and rampant corruption.

Salam al-Maliki, transport minister, said the presence of U.S.-led troops was as detrimental to the country’s well-being as the devastation resulting from terror attacks.

“Corruption, terror … and occupation are taking their daily toll on the life of Iraqi citizens,” Maliki said in an interview.

He said the worsening conditions in Iraq along with the hike in terror, insurgent attacks and violence “are a product of the occupation.”

Maliki is the first government minister who publicly condemns U.S. troops, saying that they shoulder the responsibility of the chaos in the country.

Maliki, a Muslim Shiite, was the former deputy governor of the southern city of Basra for administrative affairs.

He won a seat in the National Assembly in January elections in which he stood as a candidate for the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s political movement.

Sadr has staged two uprisings against U.S. troops, one in Baghdad and another in the holy city of Najaf.

The cleric is a strong opponent of the presence of foreign troops and has repeatedly called for their immediate withdrawal.

Maliki said the occupation has turned “Iraq into a station for all international terrorist organizations and an arena for score-settling.

“As for the issue of administrative corruption … Iraq now tops the ranks of the most corrupt countries in the world,” he said.

Maliki said the U.S. and its administration of the country bear the responsibility “for the chaos that has engulfed the country.”

The U.S., he said, divided power in Iraq along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines “and this division has been a factor leading to its destruction.”

It is not clear whether the Sadr movement, with large following in Baghdad and several other cities, will take part in the next elections.

But Sadr himself has been closely following current affairs in the country often issuing statements to express his movement’s views on the form of administration the country should have.

He recently lambasted Iraqi lawmakers drafting the constitution, saying their desire to set up a federal system was a recipe for the division of the country.

Maliki said he would prefer to see a secular constitution rather than one in which Islam is the main source of legislation.

But he said he would reject a constitution that pursues western secularism.

“While I do not call for the establishment of an Islamic state, this does not meant that Islam should not be there in the constitution,” he said.