January 23rd, 2010
03:42 PM ET
10 years ago

Biden meets Iraq president amid election dispute

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden met with Iraqi leaders Saturday amid controversy over the legitimacy of hundreds of electoral candidates in the upcoming general election.

More than 500 politicians might be banned from running in the March race because they have links to the Baath Party, electoral commission spokesman Qassim al-Aboudi told CNN last week. Saddam Hussein's Baath Party has been outlawed in Iraq - a ban the United States supports, Biden said Saturday.

Speaking alongside Iraq President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Biden said he was "confident" Iraqis would resolve the dispute.

"In my talks with Iraqi leaders today, one of the things we discussed was the recent controversy regarding the proposed disqualification of some of the candidates running for election," Biden said. "I want to make it clear: I am not here to resolve that issue. This is for Iraqis to do, not for me."

At a news conference Thursday, Talabani said the country could handle the problem on its own. He said he sent a letter to the federal court, asking that it rule on the legitimacy of the Accountability and Justice Commission. The commission, charged with purging politics of mid- and senior-level members of Hussein's party, issued the list of 511 politicians linked to the Baath Party.

The list includes some prominent Sunni Arab politicians. Banning such candidates has raised fears of alienating the Sunnis - and issue during the 2005 elections that factored into the years of sectarian violence that followed.

Some of the Baath members have not been active in the party for years, Talabani said, and others, who are not Hussein loyalists, should be allowed to partake in the general election.

According to Talabani, Biden called Iraq's leaders prior to his arrival and offered a suggestion: Baath members must renounce the Baath Party and make a pledge to democracy. However, Talabani said those on the list would unlikely sign such a pledge. Biden also said the elections should proceed as scheduled with winners vetted afterward, Talabani said.

Biden's national security advisor, Antony Blinken, wouldn't provide details of that conversation to reporters Friday. He said the United States was not proposing solutions, and that vetting candidates after the election was an idea posed by Iraqi leaders.

"There are Iraqi solutions that they're working on," Blinken said. "We're listening to them. If we have thoughts or reactions, obviously we'll give it to the Iraqis."

Biden's second day in Baghdad also marked the withdrawal of U.S. Marines from Iraq.

Thousands of Marines have been deployed to Anbar, the largest and once most violent Iraqi province, the U.S. military said Saturday. Anbar was a stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency in the early years of the Iraq war, but the region became staunchly opposed to al Qaeda with the emergence of anti-militant groups known as Awakening Councils.

The U.S. Army is still posted in Anbar and will continue its work with Iraqi forces there, the military said. The move is a significant step in the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces set for August.

"Even as we draw down our military, Mr. President, we will ramp up our political, diplomatic and economic engagement with Iraq," Biden told Talabani on Saturday. "It is often said that the true test of democracy is not the first election but the second election."

The United States plans to support the election process, Biden said, and help Iraqis living in the United States cast votes in the elections back home.

He added that it was important that Iraqis and the international community recognize the elections as fair and transparent.

–CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Bruce Johnson

    Joe or Mr. Vice Prsdent
    Don't forget: do not criticize the womens head dress.

    January 23, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    Where's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Doesn't this seem like a State Department issue? Okay, so she's no Condoleeza Rice, but...

    January 23, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. Fitz in Texas

    I'm not even sure sending "Average Joe" to an underwater basket weaving class is a good idea at this point.

    January 23, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  4. buckeye

    That's the way to bring democracy to Iraq, Joe. Ban 500 candidates from the election because you don't like their politics. Give it up. Bring the troops home to protect democracy here; the supremes just dealt it a death blow the day before yesterday.

    January 23, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Keith in Austin

    Hey Joe! Just keep your mouth shut and America will be OK.

    Try not to get shot by the US troops too.

    January 23, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  6. jp,michigan

    When are we finally leaving Iraq to the Iraqis . I thought Mr. Obama stated we were leaving Iraq . Just like guizo was closing.

    January 23, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Willy Brown

    Joe please stay there they need a court jester.

    January 23, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  8. Kendall

    How can you have a democracy and ban a political party? If that is democracy, then I saw we ban both the Republican and Democratic party here! That'd be change I could believe in!

    January 23, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  9. Texas Jack

    This administration is not adept at meeting foreign leaders. Instead they are an embarrassment to the U.S.

    January 23, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  10. Common Sense Guy

    I pray Biden doesn't do something stupid before he leaves.

    January 23, 2010 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  11. Preston k

    Pkm i do not give a dam abouj irac get are military out of irac and keep are military safe

    January 24, 2010 03:07 am at 3:07 am |