Iraq reconciliation clouded by divisions
CAIRO: Iraqi leaders resumed efforts on Sunday to prepare a reconciliation conference for the war-torn country, facing deep sectarian differences heightened by a wave of violence at home.
The first of the three days of Arab League-sponsored talks on Saturday was marked by bitter recriminations between the war-torn country’s factions and a brief walkout from one session by Shiite and Kurdish delegations.
Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, who was sacked earlier this year as head of Iraq’s Waqf or Islamic endowment body, told reporters that a February 25-March 1 date was being considered for the reconciliation conference itself.
Three committees tasked with preparing a wider reconciliation conference in Baghdad, with “building confidence” and drafting the Cairo gathering’s final statement began meeting on Sunday.
Jawad al-Khalsi, an influential Shia imam who has been central to recent dialogue efforts, did not hide his disappointment when the first day of talks came to an end.
“We are divided between parties who are opposed and others who are favourable to the occupation. But we’re still at square one since we were not given the opportunity to discuss in depth the crucial issue of a withdrawal timetable,” he told AFP.
Iraqi PM Ibrahim Jaafari set the tone of the meeting at the opening on Saturday, when he firmly vetoed the participation of members of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime. Egypt and Arab League chief Amr Mussa had pressured the Iraqi government to allow former members of the now banned Baath party “with no blood on their hands” to be included in the talks. His comments prompted an angry reaction from the Committee of Muslim Scholars, the leading Sunni religious authority in Iraq.
The rest of the day was marked by deep confessional divisions and news of yet another deadly suicide bombing by the Sunni-dominated insurgency in Iraq targeting the majority Shia community.
A representative of the Baath party in Cairo told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television that his movement welcomed the planned reconciliation conference, although it did not officially take part in the talks. afp