Iraq leaders to meet in bid to solve
BAGHDAD, -- Iraq's top five political
leaders are due to hold a summit this week in an
attempt to end a political crisis which has
paralyzed the country for months, officials said on
They told Reuters that Kurdish, Sunni Arab and
Shi'ite leaders acknowledge the political impasse
and may meet on Friday.
"They will be holding marathon meetings. So far we
have the 27th as the date but it is yet to be
confirmed," a senior government official told
The summit will bring together President Jalal
Talabani, a Kurd, Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
and Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. It will
also involve Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's
semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and a top aide of
powerful Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
The government official said the summit may also be
extended to include other key figures such as former
interim prime minister Iyad Allawi.
The leaders are expected to discuss various issues,
including how to agree on amending the constitution.
The identity of the disputed oil-rich northern city
of Kirkuk could also be on the agenda, officials
Kurds want Kirkuk included in their autonomous
Kurdistan region as its capital and want to press
ahead with a referendum by the end of the year, but
other ethnic groups object. Iraq's constitution
stipulates a Kirkuk referendum by year's end.
Maliki's government is under mounting pressure to
meet benchmarks set by Washington to end sectarian
violence and push for economic and political
reforms. But political wrangling among its factions
has left it weak and shaky.
Sunni Arab ministers in the government have stopped
attending cabinet meetings, while Shi'ite ministers
loyal to fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have left the
"The situation is very serious and the country is
deadlocked, so they need to meet to move things
forward," said a senior Shi'ite official, speaking
on condition of anonymity.
Behind the scenes there has been talk about
reshuffling the government, but some people think
this would push Iraq to the brink of collapse
because various factions would then argue to scratch
issues that had already been agreed on.
Washington has been pushing Iraq to speed passage of
several laws aimed at curbing sectarian violence and
healing deep divisions between majority Shi'ites and
minority Sunni Arabs.
Only one draft, which concerns Iraq's huge oil
reserves, has been submitted, but the full
legislature has yet to debate it.
The draft oil law aims to ease tension by ensuring
Sunnis share in oil profits. Iraq has the world's
third largest oil reserves, but most is in the
Kurdish north or Shi'ite south.
Other laws that set provincial elections by the
year-end and allow some members of Saddam Hussein's
Baath party to return to government and the military
also need to be passed.
But the Iraqi government is running out of time
ahead of a report due in Washington by Sept. 15 on
Iraq's security and political progress.
The report, by U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and
military leader General David Petraeus, is being
viewed as a political watershed. Lack of action on
those benchmark laws is sure to heighten calls from
opposition Democrats in Congress and also some
Republicans for an American troop pullout from Iraq.
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