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Sunni leaders open to joining Iraq government if conditions met

Source: Reuters - Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:24 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Repeats to add 'exclusive' tag)

BAGHDAD, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Tribal leaders and clerics from Iraq's Sunni heartland who staged a revolt against outgoing prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government would be willing to join the new administration if certain conditions are met, a spokesman for the group told Reuters on Friday.

The incoming prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, faces the daunting task of pacifying Anbar province, where Sunni frustrations with Maliki's sectarian policies have pushed some to join an insurgency led by Islamic State militants.

The spokesman, Taha Mohammed Al-Hamdoon, said Sunni representatives in Anbar and other provinces had drawn up a list of demands to be delivered to the moderate Shi'ite Abadi through Sunni politicians.

He called for government and Shi'ite militia forces to suspend hostilities to allow space for talks.

"It is not possible for any negotiations to be held under barrel bombs and indiscriminate bombing," said Hamdoon in a telephone interview.

"Let the bombing stop and withdraw and curtail the (Shi'ite) militias until there is a solution for the wise men in these areas."

After a U.S. occupation lasting nearly a decade, which ended in 2011 with a price tag of more than $2 trillion, Iraq is nowhere near the stability promised when Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

Maliki was widely resented as a divisive and authoritarian figure who drew comparisons with the former Iraqi dictator.

Winning over Sunnis, who dominated under Saddam and were sidelined by Maliki, will be vital to any efforts to contain a sectarian civil war marked by almost daily kidnappings, execution-style killings and bombings. (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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