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US downplays split in Iraq government

The White House downplayed Wednesday the resignation of Iraq's largest Sunni bloc from the government, calling the move "internal politicking" while political leaders continue negotiations.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the United States was keeping an eye on the situation, but he noted that Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi remained in office while the party would still hold talks with political rivals.

"It illustrates some of the difficulties in working politically within Iraq," Snow told reporters.

"We're keeping an eye on the situation, but let's keep in mind that it is not a complete withdrawal from the political process; there remains engagement within Baghdad," he said.

All six ministers from the National Concord Front tendered their resignations from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated coalition government after a month-long spat, dealing another blow to Iraq's already faltering program of national reconciliation.

But Snow described the move as "part of an ongoing conversation."

"Let's see how this develops. Because there are continuing conversations and there are continuing negotiations between the parties," he said, adding that it was up to Maliki to accept or reject the resignations.

"So what you're seeing is, sort of, some internal politicking going on Iraq," Snow said.

US President George W. Bush has pressed the Iraqi government to make progress on national reconciliation efforts, which US official see as a key to ending sectarian bloodshed plaguing Iraq.

Bush held a 45-minute video teleconference with Maliki Wednesday during which the US leader pressed the prime minister again to make political progress.

Maliki "offered assurances to the president that they're continuing to work hard on the legislative front," Snow said.

"As the president said, 'We need to see action, not words.' The prime minister said, 'Understood,' and we are working to action," he said.

On the resignation of Sunni ministers, Maliki told Bush he was "actively working to address their concerns and find a resolution acceptable to all party blocs," Snow said.

US downplays split in Iraq government -  Source

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