Iraq parliament lifts immunity of Sunni MP

Blamed for Israel visit

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The Iraqi parliament lifted the immunity of Sunni MP Mithal Alusi on Sunday for visiting Israel last week to attend an international conference on terrorism.

Parliament voted to ban Alusi from travelling outside Iraq or attending its sessions, and to ask prosecutors to press charges against him for visiting the Jewish state.

The action against Alusi, the sole member of his own parliamentary faction, was agreed by acclamation.

The MP's trip to Israel last week was his second since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. He previously visited Israel in September 2004.

During his latest visit, Alusi spoke at the Herzliya Institute for Policy and Strategy near Tel Aviv where, according to Shiite MP Ali al-Adeeb, he urged support for Israel.

Alusi said his visit to Israel was not an official visit.

"I did not represent Iraq. It was a personal visit following an invitation," Alusi told parliament.

At the time of his 2004 visit, Alusi was a member of the Iraqi National Congress, the party led by former Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi.

But he was expelled from the party for making the visit and set up his own party known as Al Umma, or the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, of which he is the sole representative in the 275-member parliament.

According to Iraqi press reports, in his address to the Herzliya Institute, Alusi called for greater cooperation against Iran.

"Iran today is the centre for disaster in the region. The majority of Iraqi people do not support the Tehran regime," he was quoted as saying.

"We should cooperate with Israel in gathering intelligence, along with Turkey, Kuwait and the United States, to guarantee an exchange of information in order to confront terrorism together."

Alusi has survived several assassination attempts in recent years. Two sons and a bodyguard were killed in one attempt on his life in February 2005.