Middle East
Iraq's Sunni bloc halts unity talks
Accordance Front says decision taken after PM rejected its nominee for a cabinet post.
Last Modified: 28 May 2008 08:48 GMT
Many Sunni Arabs view the current Iraqi government as dominated by Shia Arabs and Kurds [GALO/GETTY]

Iraq's Sunni Arab political bloc says it has suspended talks to rejoin the government of Nuri al-Maliki after a disagreement with the prime minister over a cabinet post.

"We have suspended negotiations with the government and pulled out our candidates," Salim al-Jibouri, spokesman for the Accordance Front, a Sunni Arab party, said on Wednesday.
The Accordance Front pulled out of the national unity government in August, seeking the release of mainly Sunni Arab detainees in Iraq's jails.
It also demanded a greater say in security matters.
Al-Jibouri said the Accordance Front's decision was taken after al-Maliki objected to a candidate for a cabinet position.
He said the party drew up a list of candidates for six cabinet posts to hand to the government for approval, but al-Maliki rejected the nomination for the planning ministry.
Al-Maliki refused to give the Sunni bloc an extra government post as a compromise, al-Jibouri said.

Officials from al-Maliki's office were not immediately available for comment.

Al-Hashemi optimistic

A statement on Tuesday from the office of Tareq al-Hashemi, a senior member of the Accordance Front who is also a vice-president of Iraq, said he believed the talks would succeed despite disagreements.

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"We achieved significant progress on returning to the government although there are some differences in points of view over some ministries and candidates," he said.
"And we hope that in the coming days that this will be resolved and the Accordance Front will return to the national unity government."

Sunni Arabs have little voice in a cabinet dominated by Shia Arabs and Kurds.

Mixed appraisal

Since becoming prime minister in May 2006, al-Maliki has faced constant criticism from the community that he has promoted the interests of the majority Shia ahead of the country's other sectarian and ethnic groups.
But he won praise from Sunni Arab politicians after launching a crackdown on Shia militias in Baghdad and the southern oil city of Basra.

The government has also begun releasing Sunni Arab prisoners under a new amnesty law.    
Sunni Arabs were dominant under Saddam Hussein and anti-government fighters have drawn support from the community.

Persuading the bloc to rejoin has been a main aim of the US policy in Iraq, and is widely seen as a vital step in reconciling the country's factions after years of conflict.
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