Iraq's Maliki urges Syria to end one-party rule
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki encouraged Syria to open up its political system to end one-party Baath rule as part of reforms in the face of months of popular protests Al-Ahram reported
Maliki's comments about his neighbour came as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad faces increasing international condemnation and sanctions over a crackdown on protests that the United Nations says has killed more than 2,900 people.
Iraq's Shi'ite-led government says it seeks balance in its relations in the Arab region, but its approach to Syria has been caught between supporting Damascus, an ally of Shi'ite power Iran, and concern over unrest spilling over into Iraq.
Maliki, who lived in Syria until he returned to Iraq after the 2003 invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, has taken a more muted approach to the Syrian crisis than Sunni Arab leaders.
"Certainly, we support the idea of ending one-party rule, rule by one person," he told Reuters when asked about what reforms were needed in Syria.
"I say openly that we support the idea of states that come from the people, states and governments appointed by the people, not those appointed behind closed doors."
Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, a distant offshoot of Shi'ite Islam and his family holds absolute power, commanding the Baath Party and security apparatus.
Baghdad's ties with Iran have improved since the 2003 invasion. Ties with Damascus also have strengthened since last year and the two countries this year signed a trade agreement to ease the transit of goods across their border.
Iraqi Shi'ite leaders are concerned over turmoil in Syria bringing a hardline Sunni leader to power should Assad fall. Last month Maliki warned about regional fallout from a Syrian collapse should there be a change based on sectarian lines.