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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Mixed reception for Iraqi royal
Sharif Ali bin Hussein
Royal homecoming, 45 years on
The man who wants to head a restored monarchy in Iraq, Sharif Ali bin Hussein, has met both reverence and scepticism on his return to Baghdad after 45 years in exile.

Members of the royal family fled the country taking baby Sharif Ali with them when the last monarch, King Faisal, was killed in a coup in 1958.

He has lived in exile ever since but not given up ambitions of restoring the royal house.

He arrived in a chartered jet from London, where he works as a banker.

Hundreds of tribal sheikhs and monarchists welcomed Sharif Ali at Baghdad airport before he was driven straight to his family mausoleum that still holds the remains of two of Iraq's previous kings, Faisal I and Ghazi.

"After so many years outside Iraq, I have come home to my country," Sharif Ali told supporters there.

Man who would be king
Sharif Ali bin Hussein
I have come home to my country
Sharif Ali bin Hussein

"Through the willingness of the Iraqi people, we will rebuild this country.

"Iraqis have been patient all these years. You have suffered under this dictator. Now the dictator is gone," said Sharif Ali.

He said he did not see himself as holding a political position, though he referred repeatedly to himself as an advocate.

"We're not thinking in terms of power, but in terms of the empowerment of the Iraqi people," he said.

Backers of Sharif Ali say he seeks a referendum that would give Iraqis the chance to elect him to head a constitutional monarchy.

But he made no mention of these plans in a speech at the mausoleum.

He called for an Iraq built on "dignity, freedom and democracy".

He also referred to the economic hardships faced by ordinary Iraqis - a point which brought the largest round of applause.

"It is a shame that in a rich country like Iraq, people don't get their salaries," he said.

Other contenders

Sharif Ali is descended from the same Hashemite royal family that now rules Jordan.

Its Iraqi counterpart, under Faisal I, was installed by Britain after World War I.

The family ruled Iraq until the coup which overthrew the monarchy.

We need a congress and a president. We don't need more royalty
Salman Fadhil
Baghdad grocer
Sharif Ali's aides project him as a symbolic figure who could soothe Iraq's political chaos, but analysts say his family have never enjoyed great support.

And Sharif Ali is not the only remnant of the royal family.

Two of his cousins - members of the Jordanian royal family - have been mentioned as possible contenders for the throne.

In Baghdad, Sharif Ali's Constitutional Monarchy Movement has been busy preparing his welcome.

Posters adorning their headquarters proclaim him "The Hope of Iraq".

But opinions about the would-be king vary widely.

"He represents something we need," said Dawood Rahmani, a retired engineer who works for the movement told Associated Press.

"With all the trouble in Iraq right now, maybe some dictator will find a way to take power.

"Nobody could stop that except the king," he said.

But many in Iraq cannot remember Sharif Ali or the rest of the royal family.

"The king was in the past," said Salman Fadhil, who runs a small grocery store. near the royalists' headquarters.

"We need a congress and a president. We don't need more royalty," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein
11 Oct 02  |  Media reports


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