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Concern Grows Over Competing Influences in Middle East


Leaders in the Middle East say they are concerned about the potential for destabilization and chaos, amid competing influences in the region.

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie was asked on the CNN program Late Edition Sunday about media reports that the Iraqi insurgency is able to sustain itself financially.

He acknowledged that was true, and added that there also is a great deal of money flowing into the country from what he described as other "Arab states around Iraq."

"Those countries are afraid of our democracy," said Mowaffak Al-Rubaie. "I'm not saying these are the governments of these countries, but they are the businessmen, they are the Islamic movements in these countries, helping the insurgency, to bring down democracy in Iraq and try to defeat the United States government or the United States Army, in Iraq."

When pressed to name names, though, he declined.

"Well, it's not one country, it's not two countries," he said. "It's more than that. And, there are so many extremists around in region. Mind you, this is a fight, this is a war between the extremists and the moderates in whole region, and that's why it's concentrating its efforts in Iraq."

Rubaie said Iraq is working with some of the governments in the region to, in his words, "quell and stop these funds coming from some of these countries to the insurgents inside Iraq."

Rubaie said there is no solid evidence that Iran is helping al-Qaida in Iraq, but indicated it is possible Tehran is helping some extremist Shi'ite groups in Iraq.

Elsewhere in the region, another political assassination in Lebanon last week is sparking renewed fears of potential chaos there. Lebanese parliament member Saad Hariri pointed a finger directly at neighboring Syria, which he accused of actively trying to create problems in other parts of the region.

"The problem is, today, Syria is playing a negative role in Lebanon, and it's playing a negative role in Palestine and a negative role in Iraq," said Saad Hariri.

Hariri is the son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination last year is the subject of a major U.N. investigation. He said he thinks Syria, which is also suspected in his father's death, should be excluded from any international efforts to bring lasting peace in the region.

"And I believe some people are saying Syria needs to be engaged," he said. "Well, to be engaged with what? If Syria is playing a positive role, then you don't need to engage with it. But, if it's playing a negative role, then you're engaging into being a hostage for blackmail."

At the same time, Jordan's King Abdullah said he believes that all parties in the region should be included in dialogue.

"I do believe there are feelers going to different countries to see if we can't come together on the issue of Iraq," said King Abdullah.

Speaking on the ABC television program This Week, he added that he thinks finding political solutions to abate tension in the Middle East is more complicated than just resolving problems in Iraq or Lebanon.

"It's not just one issue by itself," said Jordan's king. "I keep saying, Palestine is the core. It is linked to the extent of what's going on in Iraq. It is linked to Lebanon. It is linked to the issues that we find ourselves, with the Syrians."

Abdullah said bringing together all parties in the region is essential for reaching any sort of comprehensive solution.

Several consultations are scheduled in the region this week. King Abdullah is hosting talks between U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is expected to meet his Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Monday. Last week, Syria and Iraq restored diplomatic relations, after a nearly quarter century break, following a visit to Iraq by the Syrian foreign minister.

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