Iraqi Sunnis slam new Shiite, Kurdish alliance
by Sabah JergesFri Aug 17, 11:30 AM ET
Leaders of Iraq's disenchanted Sunni Arab community on Friday slammed the new Shiite and Kurdish alliance formed to salvage Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government.
Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, however, made fresh attempts on Friday to win support from members of the former elite.
The National Concord Front, the main Sunni Arab political bloc in the country's 275-member parliament, said the new tie-up between the two Shiite and two Kurdish parties was a "futile" exercise.
On Thursday, Talabani and Maliki announced the forming of the alliance which brought together Shiite Dawa party and Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Kurdish factions of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK).
The National Concord Front led by Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party had boycotted talks which led to the new bloc's creation.
"The leaders should not have announced the alliance before convincing all the effective political leaderships ... whose participation could have broken the stagnation (in the political process) and convinced the boycotting parties," the Front said in a statement Friday.
The Sunni bloc has 44 members in the assembly and has also withdrawn its ministers from Maliki's Shiite-led government since August 1, effectively paralysing the political process in Iraq.
"The Front urges all parties to put pressure on the government to reactivate a real participation in the political process rather than have an arrangement where there is no authority to other parties (who are outside the alliance)," the Front said.
In a separate statement Hashemi offered to support the new alliance only if "it serves the country."
"I apologise for not participating due to subjective reasons which are clear to you and we hope you would not misunderstand our views," Hashemi said directing his statement to the allince's leaders.
"The Iraqi Islamic Party would continue to work and execute its role for unity. I pledge to support all the good work (of the alliance) as long as it serves the country."
Leaders of Iraq's divided Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni communities have often clashed on security, political and social issues, leading to delays in the passage of crucial legislative laws aimed at rebuilding the country.
Washington has warned Iraq's leaders to work harder on unity, concerned that the political stalemate could torpedo efforts to reconcile the warring factions and undermine the work of 155,000 American troops to end the conflict.
Since the US-led invasion of March 2003, Iraq has plunged into an abyss of overlapping civil conflicts that have divided its rival religious and ethnic communities, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead.
Shiite parties suspect Sunni leaders, whose minority sect dominated political power under executed dictator Saddam Hussein, of supporting insurgents.
Sunni leaders accuse the Shiite parties of ties with powerful neighbour Iran and condemn their alleged complicity with Shiite militias who according to the US military are involved in killing Sunni Arabs in the sectarian conflict.
On Friday, Maliki and Talabani attempted to woo the Sunnis again.
During a visit to the northern Sunni city of Tikrit -- the hometown of Saddam -- Maliki said the tribal leaders of Salaheddin of which Tikrit is the capital deserved praise in their "fight against terrorists."
"We are the sons of one country. Whatever our races and sectarian affiliations be, our one country will unite us," a statement from his office quoted him as telling to tribesmen and Iraqi army officers in Tikrit.
He added the process of national reconciliation involved "respecting the point of view of each other."
In a separate press conference in Baghdad, Talabani said the new alliance was "determined to reach an agreement with the brothers in the Concord."
Without elaborating Talabani said many of the demands of Hashemi were "also just and we must respect them."
"The reasonable demands must be looked at in a positive way by the government."
Washington wants the Iraqi government to re-engage the ousted elite in the political process in a bid to sever its alleged support for insurgents.
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