By Abeer Diwani
Azzaman, November 7, 2007
A rare visit by a delegation representing Sunni tribes in the Province of Anbar to the predominantly Shiite Province of Qadissiya is yet another signal that Iraqis are keen to put an end to sectarian strife.
The Anbar delegation included major Sunni tribes who have formed a coalition and raised a tribal force to check Qaeda influence in their areas.
Anbar was the main stronghold of Qaeda in Mesopotamia but reports say the terror group's influence there is receding.
The delegation held talks with tribal chiefs in Qadissiya Province centered on national reconciliation.
Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, was for long a no-go area for Iraqi and U.S. troops as Qaeda fighters were almost in total control of its streets and districts.
Diwaniya, Qadissiya's provincial capital, is currently one of the most restive cities in southern Iraq due to infighting among disparate Shiite militia groups.
Sheikh Mohammed Shaalan said both Sunni and Shiite tribes in the two provinces have vowed to bring national reconciliation to success.
Shaalan heads Shiite tribes in Qadissiya.
The structure of Iraqi tribes overlaps sectarian divisions in Iraq.
Certain powerful tribes in Anbar for example have their largest following among Iraqi Shiites. Shiites and Sunnis can be members of the same tribe and fight under its banner and vow allegiance to the same tribal chieftain regardless of sect.
Shaalan, who spoke for the meeting, said a tribal delegation from Qadissiya would also travel to Anbar in the near future.
"We have agreed to support he government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which is working hard to enable tribes assume a better role in solving conflicts away from sectarianism and factionalism," he said.
Shaalan said the two sides signed an agreement under which they will coordinate their efforts and raise resources "to combat crime and punish those attacking and killing security and police personnel."
"We need to have no weapon brandished without the state's approval. Carrying weapons should be the sole prerogative of the state," he said.
The tribes have also agreed to "ostracize" any one of their members found defying the state or attacking government troops or police.
Tribesmen providing refuge for "terrorists and criminals" will be punished severely, he said.