Key Iraqi political leaders agree to seek a new prime minister | VailDaily.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Key Iraqi political leaders agree to seek a new prime minister

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Key political groups agreed Wednesday to mount a campaign to deny Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari another term in a bid to jump-start stalled talks on a new national unity government.Meanwhile, at least 47 people died in bombings and shootings across the country. In the deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded near a market and traffic police office in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad, killing 29 people and wounding 67, the Interior Ministry said.The move against al-Jaafari is expected to draw sharp opposition from the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The firebrand Shiite leader’s support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination over Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites elected to the new parliament Dec. 15.Al-Sadr’s militiamen were believed behind many of the attacks against Sunni mosques last week, and the prospect of a prime minister in debt to the young radical has alarmed mainstream politicians, including some in the Shiite alliance.They fear a strong role for al-Sadr could sharpen sectarian tensions that have already pushed the country to the brink of civil war and complicate U.S. plans to begin drawing down American forces this year.The campaign against al-Jaafari, which has been building for weeks, is spearheaded by three major political blocs that have been in U.S.-backed talks with the Shiite alliance on forming a new government.During a meeting Wednesday, leaders of three parties, including Sunnis, Kurds and the secularists of ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, agreed to ask the Shiite alliance to withdraw al-Jaafari’s nomination and put forward another candidate.Officials of all three groups confirmed the plan but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.Under the constitution, the nominee of the biggest bloc in parliament gets the first chance to form a new government. The Shiites won 130 of the 275 seats – giving them the biggest bloc, but not enough to govern without partners.The talks on a new government broke down last week when the Sunni parties pulled out of the negotiations to protest attacks on Sunni mosques in reprisal for the Feb. 22 bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra.On Wednesday, a spokesman for the influential Sunni clerical Association of Muslim Scholars denounced the Shiite-led government and its security forces for failing to prevent the reprisal attacks.Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi appealed for calm and urged hundreds of displaced Shiites to return to the mostly Sunni neighborhoods they fled last week.Although the level of sectarian attacks has diminished, the bloodshed continued Wednesday.Dazed, bloodied victims of the car bombing that killed 29 in southeast Baghdad were rushed to Kindi Hospital, where staff cut off the shirt of a screaming child whose face and arms were singed in the blast.Another bomb hidden under a parked car detonated as a police patrol was passing near downtown Tahrir Square. The patrol escaped unharmed, but six civilians were killed and 17 wounded, the Interior Ministry said.North of the capital, gunmen ambushed a convoy of police trainees about 20 miles south of Kirkuk, killing five and wounding 11, police said.The 50 trainees, on leave from their academy in Sulaimaniyah, were traveling in four minibuses to Tikrit. Two blood-spattered vehicles made it back to Kirkuk carrying three dead and seven wounded, police there said. Another one turned up in Tikrit, about 45 miles to the south, with two dead and four wounded. The fourth minibus escaped unscathed.South of the capital, mortar shells slammed into a market in the volatile, Shiite-Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, killing two civilians and wounding three, the ministry said. Another shell landed in a house in a mixed western Baghdad neighborhood, killing a woman and wounding a child, police said.At least four other people were killed in shootings in Baqouba and Kut.—Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue, Sameer N. Yacoub and Steven R. Hurst contributed to this report from Baghdad.Vail, Colorado


Support Local Journalism