Top Kurdish minister rejoins Iraqi government

Hoshiyar Zebari returns as foreign minister as Nouri al-Maliki calls for all parties to take part in new administration.

A Kurdish minister who suspended his participation in the government of outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejoined the administration, in an apparent sign of reconciliation in the politically fractured country.

Hoshiyar Zebari returned to his post as foreign minister, after Kurdish politicians suspended their role in government in protest at comments made in July by Maliki, accusing Erbil of harbouring Sunni rebels.

The move comes as Maliki called for the new government to learn from mistakes made by previous administrations.

His comments on Wednesday came after the Iraqi army failed in its third attempt to retake the town of Tikrit from fighters belonging to the Islamic State group.

In his weekly televised address, Maliki – who is to be succeeded by Haider al-Abadi – called for all political parties to be involved in the formation of the new government.

“The key principle in forming the government is how to maintain the political stability, simply for the reason that security, construction, economic and social stability are all dependent on the political stability where there is no tension, division, enmities or struggle between the parliament and the government,” said Maliki.

“This is what, in the past, had crippled the state and institutions from operating, giving fertile  … ground for terrorism,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, said that many Iraqi’s blame Maliki for the current problems in the country.

“Maliki has been blamed by many Iraqis for the current conflict. They’ve accused him of running the country as an authoritarian leader and of implementing sectarian policies and ruling the country alone, and not sharing power with the other communities,” said Khodr..

Battle for Tikrit

Meanwhile, in the north of the country, Iraqi forces halted an operation to retake the town of Tikrit, the hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein. 

The troops faced fierce resistance from fighters belonging to the Islamic State group on Tuesday, officers told the Reuters news agency.

Iraqi forces came under heavy machinegun and mortar fire south of Tikrit, while to the west landmines and snipers undermined efforts to get closer to a town they have tried to retake several times, said the officers.

The same day, the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing on of its fighters beheading US journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

The video received much criticism from global leaders, prompting French president Francois Hollande to arrange for an international conference on the threat posed by the armed group. 

Hollande described the current situation as the most serious since 2001.

“I will therefore propose an initiative on security in Iraq and the fight against Islamic State from September,” he told French newspaper Le Monde

Britain’s David Cameron is expected to meet with the “Foreign Secretary and senior officials from the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the agencies to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIL terrorists” on Wednesday, his office said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters