Monday, September 10, 2007


National Dialogue Front rejons parliament

(CNN) -- A small Sunni Arab bloc ended its boycott of Iraq's parliament Saturday, boosting the appearance of national unity just days before key reports are due in Washington on Iraq's progress. Saleh al-Mutlaq, who leads the National Dialogue Front, told CNN that the Sunni Arab group's 11 members of parliament returned to the 275-seat legislature after their demands were met.
"The government has agreed to allocate funds to displaced families ... and it has agreed to delay negotiations on the oil law until after Ramadan," he said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting, which begins next week. "We are therefore today heeding the call of the speaker to end our boycott."
Al-Mutlaq said the decision also was based in part on some U.S. policy changes in Iraq. "Americans were only talking with the Kurdish bloc and the Shiite bloc. Now, they are starting to be somehow fair," he said. "They are working with tribes to get rid of al Qaeda and putting pressure on the militias."
Iraq's parliament is preparing to tackle key legislation in response to U.S. benchmarks aimed at measuring Iraq's progress toward national unity. Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are to appear before Congress this week to present their assessments. "We are hoping that the Americans are realizing that the sectarian parties or Islamic parties cannot govern Iraq, and they should support the national liberal trend in Iraq," al-Mutlaq said.
In spite of the political progress, at least 15 civilians were killed in separate explosions around Iraq, officials said Saturday. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded Saturday evening outside a police station in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, an Interior Ministry official said. The bomb went off at 6:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) in the densely populated and predominantly Shiite district.
A hand grenade exploded in a market south of the capital in Kufa, killing at least three Iraqi civilians and wounding six others Saturday afternoon, Najaf police said. Following the blast, police said Kufa and Najaf -- both major Shiite cities -- were shut down for two hours.

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