Baghdad: In a major reconciliatory gesture, a leader from Iraq's largest Shiite party has paid a rare visit to the Sunni Anbar province, delivering a message of unity to tribal shaikhs who have staged a US-backed revolt against Al Qaida militants.

The leader of parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc, Adnan Al Dulaimi, welcomed Ammar Al Hakim's visit to Anbar on Sunday as a "good initiative", saying Shiite-Sunni reconciliation was a goal cherished by his once-dominant Sunni Arab minority.

"This is what we hope, and we pray to Allah for," Al Dulaimi, whose three-party alliance has 44 of parliament's 275 seats, said yesterday.

"We pray to God to make our Shiite brothers ... give us our due rights and not monopolise power." Al Hakim's visit to Anbar was the latest sign that key Iraqi politicians may be working toward reconciliation independently of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government, which has faced criticism for doing little to bring together Iraq's Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.


Sunni Arab Vice-President Tariq Al Hashemi visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, last month at Najaf south of Baghdad. The visit amounted to an unprecedented Sunni Arab endorsement of Al Sistani's role as the nation's guardian.

Al Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party also has been distancing itself from militant Sunni Arab groups and has in recent months forged closer ties with Al Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party, and the two major Kurdish parties.

Al Hakim, son and heir apparent of Iraq's top Shiite politician, struck a note of national unity in Anbar.

"Iraq does not belong to the Sunnis or the Shiites alone; nor does it belong to the Arabs or the Kurds and Turkomen," Al Hakim told his hosts in the provincial capital Ramadi, about 115km west of Baghdad.

"Today, we must stand up and declare that Iraq is for all Iraqis." He stood next to the leader of the Anbar movement, Ahmad Abu Risha.

Government seeks nod for incursion

The Turkish government has decided to send a motion to Parliament seeking approval for a military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, a government spokesman said yesterday.

Cemil Cicek said he hoped Parliament would vote on the motion this week - passage is considered likely - but indicated that the government would still prefer a solution to the conflict that does not involve a cross-border offensive. Local news stations said the vote would be held tomorrow. "Our hope is that there will be no need to use this motion," Cicek said.