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Kin of King Faisal II Looks to Reclaim Throne - 2004-07-27

As Iraq prepares for national elections next year, a low-profile political process is underway as would-be office holders look for support. And there is one man in who wants to reclaim the throne of the country's deposed monarchy.

When it comes time for Iraqis to begin deciding their country's new leadership, they will not be lacking for choices. Dozens of political entities have formed in the country and have quietly been seeking support in advance of next January's scheduled elections, including a man who wants to become the king of Iraq.

Sharif Ali bin Hussein, a first cousin of King Faisal II, Iraq's last monarch who was deposed and killed in a 1958 coup, arrived in Iraq last summer representing the Constitutional Monarchy Movement.

The 48-year-old former investment banker says he returned to Iraq from Britain after 46 years of exile in hopes of reclaiming the throne. He says he wants to re-establish stability in the country.

"Because my lineage is a monarchy, because the monarchy established modern Iraq, modern democracy in Iraq, it was a system of government that insured the rule of law, freedom of press and free elections," says Mr. Hussein. It was the republics, in fact, that ushered in a period of the worst possible dictatorships imaginable, that put the country through civil wars, external wars and finally lost its independence and sovereignty."

Mr. Hussein has been pushing for early elections in Iraq, saying that the U.N. appointed interim government does not have the legitimacy it needs to adequately govern the country.

And, even though an insurgency continues throughout Iraq with almost daily killings and kidnappings, the former prince thinks elections can and should be held as soon as possible.

"I think in many countries you actually have elections in a bad security situation. If we look at northern Ireland or Italy in the 70's, in certain states in India they have violence when they are having elections," says Mr. Hussein. "I do not think the security problem really is an impediment to elections. On the contrary, I think free elections will greatly resolve political crises and confer legitimacy and authority to the government, which it lacks at the moment."

Mr. Hussein says he envisions an Iraqi king playing the role of an arbiter whose job would be to protect the constitution and individual rights. An elected parliament and prime minister, he says, would rule the country.

But while many Iraqis may long for the days of the old monarchy, it is unclear how Mr. Hussein would fare in an election. He, like former leader Saddam Hussein, is a Sunni Muslim in a country where Shi'ite Muslims outnumber Sunnis by more than three-to-one.

But, regardless of whether he is able to reclaim the throne, Mr. Hussein says what is important is that Iraqi people feel whatever government that finally emerges, is the government that they have chosen and has not been imposed by outside forces. He says his presence in Iraq is intended to make sure Iraqi citizens have a choice.