Monday, August 20, 2007


Kurdish-Shia political alliance meet with Sunni leader

(CNN) -- The leaders of a new Shiite and Kurdish political alliance met with a top Sunni Arab leader Saturday, raising hope for a breakthrough to curb factional violence in Iraq. Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni and one of Iraq's two vice presidents, met with the other leaders ahead of a political summit that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been planning.
The meeting started in the late afternoon and lasted for a few hours, and it may resume on Sunday, al-Maliki's office said. Al-Hashimi's office said they agreed on the summit's agenda and who will attend, as well as some similar issues. Al-Maliki's fractious
government has been beset by walkouts and the parliament has been unable to agree on major legislation.
Lawmakers were alarmed when six members of the Iraq Accord Front, the Sunni bloc, walked out several weeks ago. Backroom negotiations have been going on ever since. The Bush administration is concerned about the central government's political problems. "Unfortunately, political progress at the national level has not matched the pace of progress at the local level," President Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Al-Maliki signed a political agreement Thursday with three other leaders -- President Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdish regional government leader Massoud Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party, and Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq. The purpose was to create an alliance of moderates, particularly ahead of next month's report to the U.S. Congress on the state of affairs in Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will deliver the report.
Al-Hashimi did not show up at Thursday's meeting. His party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, is the largest in the government coalition and his presence in the new alliance is regarded as a major step in forging a national consensus. But on Saturday, Al-Hashimi and the four leaders who signed the agreement on Thursday discussed the political crisis and ways to resolve their differences.
Al-Maliki will travel to Syria on Monday for a three-day official visit to the Arab neighbor, his first. His delegation will include the ministers of trade and oil. Earlier this month, he visited Iran. Both Iran and Syria have been criticized by the Bush administration. The U.S. administration says that Iranian Revolutionary Guard agents are supporting Iraqi insurgents -- a claim Iran denies -- and accuses Syria of not doing enough to stop militants from crossing the Syrian border into Iraq to stage attacks. Nevertheless, Iraq has signed agreements with Iran on building oil pipelines and maintaining border security and has sought to establish ties with Syria.

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