April 26, 2005 in Nation/World

Sunnis drop demand over ex-Saddam allies

Jamie Tarabay Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A shepherd watches oil burn from a pipeline damaged by explosives west of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Sunni Muslim politicians dropped their demand Monday to include former members of Saddam Hussein’s party in Iraq’s new Cabinet in a bid to get more ministries.

The Sunni minority is believed to be the backbone of the insurgency.

The development comes as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, joined by other top U.S. officials, is trying to persuade politicians from the Shiite majority and their Kurdish allies to wrap up negotiations to form a new government.

As leaders of Iraq’s main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions continued their backroom dealing, Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari again put off his long-promised Cabinet announcement.

The National Dialogue Council, a coalition of 10 Sunni factions, initially requested 16 Cabinet seats. It submitted a list of candidates Sunday that included former members of Saddam’s Baath party, said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior member of al-Jaafari’s United Iraqi Alliance. When that was rejected, they dropped the demand.

Alliance members, who control 148 seats in the 275-member National Assembly, refuse to give top posts to members of the party that carried out Saddam’s suppression of the Shiites and Kurds.

The issue is one of many obstacles slowing negotiations since the Jan. 30 parliamentary elections. Most Sunnis boycotted the vote or stayed away in fear of attacks. Al-Jaafari could present his Cabinet to parliament as soon as today. But such forecasts have repeatedly proven wrong.

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