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Sunni bloc ready to rejoin Cabinet

FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2008

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s main Sunni Arab political bloc announced Thursday that it was ready to rejoin the Cabinet, a step that could boost reconciliation efforts and help shore up Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

The departure of the Iraqi Accordance Front in August left al-Maliki with a unity government in name only. Most of the Cabinet posts are held by Shiite Muslims and their ethnic Kurdish allies, while members of the disaffected Sunni minority continue to drive some of the worst insurgent violence.

Al-Maliki’s office said Thursday that all political factions were now willing to participate in the government.

“National reconciliation is a success,” it said in a statement issued after al-Maliki met with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. “The support from all political factions for the government’s current activities shows that it is representative of all.”

However, al-Maliki’s main rivals among his fellow Shiites, followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said they had no intention of rejoining the Cabinet. They, too, walked out last year, along with a handful of other politicians.

Analysts cautioned that the Accordance Front’s decision to rejoin the Cabinet was unlikely to dent the violence, which has been increasing in recent months.

“The group’s return marks an effort to stitch together again a national unity government that was from the outset divided, ill-constituted to govern and hardly representative of the nation,” said Joost Hiltermann, Middle East director for the International Crisis Group. “For real reconciliation, we will have to wait for this government to reach out to its enemies, not to friends who stepped out in a huff.”


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