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Iraqi Leaders Reject Mubarak's Remark That it is in Civil War

Iraqi leaders are reacting angrily to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's comments that Iraq is on the brink of civil war. Iraq's president and prime minister are also condemning the Egyptian leader's allegation that Iraqi Shi'ites are disloyal.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani - a Kurd - and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari - a Shi'ite - angrily rejected the Egyptian leader's characterization of Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims as more loyal to Tehran than they are to Baghdad.

Mr. Talabani called it an unfair and baseless allegation, and said he is very surprised and annoyed by such comments. He said reality and historical facts show that the Shi'ites have always been genuine, patriotic Iraqis.

Egyptian President Mubarak made the comments in an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite channel, broadcast Saturday.

The Egyptian leader said Iran has an influence in Iraq, which is 65-percent Shi'ite, and there are Shi'ites in neighboring countries. He said Shi'ites are always faithful to Iran, not to the country where they live.

The interview has enraged and dismayed Iraqi officials. Prime Minister Jaafari said Mr. Mubarak's words were offensive to all of Iraq's ethnic, religious, and political groups. He said Iraqi diplomats in Cairo are seeking what he called clarification from Egypt's government.

The Iraqi officials also disputed Mr. Mubarak's assertion that Iraq is on the brink of civil war.

The Egyptian president said it has almost started among Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and those who come from Asia. He said he does not know how Iraq can be brought together, saying it is close to destruction.

Regional analysts have expressed their surprise at the statements, since Mr. Mubarak has previously attempted to help bridge the gaps between Iraqi factions. He hosted an Iraqi reconciliation conference last year.

The Egyptian government is trying to play down the remarks. A spokesman issued a statement over the state news agency saying that the president simply wanted to express his concern over the deteriorating situation in Iraq.