Monday, August 13, 2007


Mailki calls emergency political summit

(AFP) -- Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called Sunday for the senior leaders from Iraq's bitterly divided communities to hold crisis talks aimed at saving his beleaguered national unity government. "I have invited major political leaders to a meeting to discuss substantial matters," said Maliki in a televised speech. "Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow could be the first meeting for these leaders to discuss the political programme and important strategic problems," the Shiite premier added.
Seventeen ministerial posts in Maliki's government are empty or filled by members boycotting cabinet meetings amid protests by many parties at Maliki's faltering programme of national reconciliation. Hopes that his so-called unity coalition can be saved now depend on the senior leadership of the rival parties cutting a new power-sharing deal that can convince the bitter Sunni minority to return to the fold. Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Vice President Adel Abdel Mehdi, another Shiite, are expected to attend the crisis summit.
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the senior Sunni Arab in the government and a critic of Maliki's alleged sectarian bias whose presence would be considered crucial, has not yet made it clear whether he will attend. Talabani's office also said Sunday that contacts with political blocs would take place in the next few days, without giving any details, following his talks in Baghdad with Massud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan.
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, and left tens of thousands of civilians dead. 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.
Shiite parties are suspicious of Sunni leaders whose minority sect dominated political power under executed former dictator Saddam Hussein and accuse them of supporting violent insurgent groups. Sunni leaders accuse the Shiite parties of ties with powerful neighbour Iran and condemn their alleged complicity with Shiite militias.

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