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Iraq Shi'ite, Sunni officials meet in Finland
04/09/2007

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Officials from Iraq's warring Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs agreed to work towards ending sectarian violence crippling the country, a local group that organised the meeting in Finland said on Tuesday.

The 30 participants agreed on a set of recommendations and political objectives for talks which could lead to national reconciliation, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) said in a statement.

"The goal was that the Iraqis would define how successful negotiations are being conducted, identify the obstacles and how to deal with them -- this is in fact what happened," said Padraig O'Malley, senior fellow at the University of Massachusetts' Centre for Democracy and Development, which co-organised the meeting ending on Monday.

The names of participants were not disclosed but an official from the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) said earlier one of its senior officials, Akram al-Hakim, attended. Hakim is a minister of state for national dialogue in the Iraqi cabinet.

The official said Sunni Arab politician Saleh al-Mutlaq and a senior official from the Shi'ite Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were also present.

Finnish national broadcaster YLE said representatives of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also attended.

O'Malley said all participants were chosen by their vice presidents and would report back to their leaders upon return.

"Knowing their backgrounds I would imagine they were high enough to influence the process," he said. "Now it's up to the principals to take it forward."

Senior representatives of the peace processes in Northern Ireland and South Africa were consulted about the organisation of the meeting.

Participants agreed fighting in Iraq should end and solutions to problems found through democracy and power-sharing.

INDEPENDENT COMMISSION

An independent commission is to be formed to supervise the process of disarmament of non-governmental armed groups, one of the recommendations said. The need for inclusion was one of the key conclusions, O'Malley said.

"Even if that means allowing parties with lots of blood on their hands into the process, so be it," he said. "You cannot leave them out and perpetuate the problem -- they have to be dealt with."

The parties also plan to work on ending international and regional interference in Iraqi affairs which they see as a hindrance to progress, O'Malley added.

The meeting was organised by CMI and the University of Massachusetts' John W. McCormack Institute.

CMI is a non-governmental organisation headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who has been active in talks on Kosovo and Aceh, Indonesia, since his presidency ended. (Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak)

Iraq Shi'ite, Sunni officials meet in Finland -  Source


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