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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs
31 January 2006

IRAQ: Despite government scepticism, negotiations with insurgents continue

BAGHDAD, 31 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Political leaders are pursuing negotiations with insurgent groups in the hopes of curtailing the violence that has taken the lives of thousands of Iraqis in the past two years.

“For the last month we’ve been trying to convince militias to put down their guns until they see whether or not the new government can bring positive results,” said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front.

Since national elections were held on 15 January, negotiations between political parties to form a coalition government have been ongoing. The new government is expected to be fully formed by the end of February.

According to al-Dulaimi, weekly meetings aimed at establishing a ceasefire are currently being held with insurgent leaders, for whom the presence of foreign forces in the country remains the outstanding issue.

“We’ve made good progress,” said al-Dulaimi. “But the presence of foreign troops could cause this accord to fail at anytime.”

Based on information given to IRIN by Sunni political groups, three insurgent militias – the Muhammad Army, the Islamic Army and the Muhammad Brigade – have already signed prospective peace deals. Sunni parties conducting the talks, however, are dependent on the US government providing a withdrawal date for its military forces.

“We will quit fighting only if the US military gives us a date for its withdrawal,” said Abu Omar, a leader of the insurgent Muhammad Army in Ramadi, capital of the beleaguered Anbar governorate.

Abu Omar said that several Iraqi insurgent groups had so far consented to a proposed ceasefire, but that the Iraqi al-Qaida group had remained opposed to talks.

“We’re more open to the possibility of improvements in Iraq, but al-Qaida doesn’t care for such things because it’s not composed of Iraqis,” Abu Omar explained. “It’s made up of foreigners who have come to exploit the differences between our brothers.”

Sunni leaders, however, complain that their efforts to establish a truce have been impaired by the government’s unwillingness to talk to insurgents.

“The members of the government say they don’t negotiate with insurgents,” said Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of a Sunni group that recently won 11 seats in the 275-seat national assembly. “But merely sitting in their chairs without taking any risks will not solve the problem.”

Nevertheless, the interim Shi’ite Iraqi government continues to voice its opposition to holding talks.

“We’ve heard that US forces and Sunni leaders are negotiating with insurgents,” said Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowafaq al-Rubai. “We strongly criticise such actions because this threatens national security.”

“Such decisions should be taken by the Iraqi government,” al-Rubai added.

Local analysts, however, say that the best way to maintain peace is by keeping channels of communication with insurgent groups open.

“This is the time to solve outstanding issues, for the sake of our country’s future,” said Baghdad-based political analyst Muktadar Idris.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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