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Iraq Sunnis say deal won't end boycott

A new political accord between Iraq's main Sunni Arab, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders will not be enough to lure boycotting Sunni Arabs back into the government, a spokesman for the biggest Sunni Arab bloc said on Monday.

In a rare positive political development, Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi joined Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other leading Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians to announce late on Sunday that they had agreed on key issues.

Although they did not announce details, they said they had agreed on a mechanism for releasing detainees, the text of a law on distributing oil revenue and measures to readmit former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to public life.

All of those were key demands of the Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, which triggered a political crisis by pulling its six ministers out of Maliki's government on August 1. Hashemi is a member of the Front but did not resign his post.

But Saleem al-Jubouri, a leading Front member of parliament and spokesman, said the deal reached on Sunday would not by itself be enough to lure the ministers back into the cabinet.

"We are not boycotting political dialogue, but this does not mean that we are returning to the government," he told Reuters.

"Yesterday's agreement covered a number of issues ... but we are waiting for action on the ground."

Political leaders in Iraq have announced broad agreements in the past but have struggled to implement them or hammer out details.

Jubouri said the most progress was made on the issue of rehabilitating Baath Party members, and good steps were also taken on setting up a way to free detainees, tens of thousands of whom are held in U.S. and Iraqi jails without charge.


Many of the detainees and Baath Party members are Sunni Arabs who feel persecuted by Maliki's Shi'ite-led government. The Sunnis are also concerned about the oil law because their provinces have far less oil than Shi'ite and Kurdish regions.

The issues are some of the main benchmarks that Washington has set for Maliki's government to take steps toward sectarian reconciliation, tests that U.S. officials have said the Iraqis were failing.

Sunday's deal will give U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker at least some good news to deliver when he reports back to Washington around September 11 along with the top U.S. general in Iraq, David Petraeus, in a pivotal moment for U.S. policy.

U.S. officials had been suggesting for weeks that Petraeus would give a fairly upbeat assessment of security in Iraq since Washington sent 30,000 extra troops this year, but Crocker would have little progress to report on the political front.

Last week Crocker called Maliki's government's progress "extremely disappointing." Leading U.S. Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin said Maliki should be replaced, but President George W. Bush said he still supported him.

Maliki lashed out at Clinton and Levin by name on Sunday, accusing them of treating Iraq "as if it were one of their villages."

Iraq Sunnis say deal won't end boycott -  Source

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