Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hashimi says thanks, but no thanks

In Iraq, rare accord doesn't sway Sunnis
August 28, 2007

BAGHDAD - Hours after Iraq's political leaders announced a deal to return former Baathists to government jobs, Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab leader said Monday that it is too small an olive branch for Sunnis to rejoin the government.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi welcomed the "great achievement" of a compromise to ease measures imposed by the occupation authority in 2003 to stop senior Saddam Hussein loyalists from returning to top posts. But Hashimi said nothing has changed regarding the Aug. 1 decision by his Iraqi Islamic Party and others, which compose the Iraqi Consensus Front, to quit the government.

The announcement late Sunday was hailed as evidence of movement toward national reconciliation by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's widely criticized Shiite-led administration, which is under international pressure to address the concerns of Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority.

The White House welcomed the accord, with President Bush offering congratulations Monday on the reconciliation statement and saying it reflected a commitment "to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis."

Amid the political back and forth, a suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a Sunni Arab mosque in Fallujah, killing 10 worshipers, including the imam, and shattering what had been a period of relative calm for a region that was once the most volatile hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.

The attack at the end of evening prayers, the deadliest to shake Anbar province since Sunni tribal leaders began working with U.S. forces in recent months to purge Islamist insurgents, was blamed on Al Qaeda in Iraq by American military officials and a Fallujah police official. The blast killed Imam Abdul-Sattar Jumaili and nine other men and injured 11.

Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was blamed for gun attacks that killed Shiite pilgrims along a 50-mile route to a shrine in Karbala. The city is filled with an estimated 1 million faithful for Tuesday's culmination of the annual Shabaniyah ritual, witnesses reported.

The U.S. military announced Monday the deaths of four American troops in weekend clashes. Two of the four died in a firefight with insurgents in Samarra on Sunday. The other two, both Marines, died in separate combat incidents in Anbar on Saturday and Sunday.

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