Iraqi warns victory for Syrian insurgents will trigger wars

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Iraq’s prime minister has warned that a victory for Syria’s rebels will spark sectarian wars in his own country and in Lebanon, and will create a new haven for al-Qaeda that would destabilise the region.

The comments by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki are one of his strongest warnings yet about the turmoil that toppling Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could create in the Middle East. It comes as his government confronts growing tensions of its own between the Shiite majority and an increasingly restive Sunni minority nearly a decade after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Fighting in Syria has sharp sectarian overtones, with predominantly Sunni rebels battling a regime dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Speaking from his office in a Saddam Hussein-era palace inside Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone yesterday, Mr 
al-Maliki reiterated his stance that foreign military intervention is not a solution to ending the crisis in Syria.

He called on outside countries to “be more reasonable regarding Syria”.

“If the world does not agree to support a peaceful solution through dialogue… then I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

“Neither the opposition nor the regime can finish each other off,” he said. “If the opposition is victorious, there will be a civil war in Lebanon, divisions in Jordan and a sectarian war in Iraq.”

Mr al-Maliki, 62, has long been accused by Sunnis of promoting his Shiite sect at their expense and for being too closely aligned with neighbouring Iran. His government has faced two months of unexpectedly resilient protests from the Sunni minority.