Iraqi Premier Offers Plan to Stop Violence

An Iraqi man comforts a woman after a roadside bomb ripped through an apartment building in downtown Baghdad. Four people were killed. In a separate attack, 14 computer shop employees were abducted by gunmen.
An Iraqi man comforts a woman after a roadside bomb ripped through an apartment building in downtown Baghdad. Four people were killed. In a separate attack, 14 computer shop employees were abducted by gunmen. (By Khalid Mohammed -- Associated Press)

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By Lee Keath
Associated Press
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 2 -- Iraq's prime minister announced a new plan Monday aimed at ending the deepening crisis between Shiite and Sunni parties in his government and uniting them behind the drive to stop sectarian killings that have bloodied the country for months.

The four-point plan, which emerged after talks between both sides, aims to resolve disputes by giving every party a voice in how security forces operate against violence on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad district -- made up of representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders and security officials -- to consult on security efforts. A Sunni representative, for example, could raise a complaint if he thinks police are not pursuing a Shiite militia after an attack. A central committee, also comprising all the parties, will coordinate with the armed forces.

"We have taken the decision to end sectarian hatred once and for all," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. "We have vowed before almighty God to stop the bloodshed."

In a possible boost to the effort to rein in the violence, a radical cleric who leads one of the most powerful Shiite militias, Moqtada al-Sadr, has ordered his followers to put aside their weapons temporarily, a Sadr spokesman said.

Maliki announced his plan hours after gunmen abducted 14 computer shop employees in a bold midday attack in downtown Baghdad, the second mass kidnapping in as many days.

The bodies of seven of the 24 captives seized Sunday at a frozen-meat factory were found dumped in southern Baghdad.

Sunni politicians blamed Shiite militias for both mass kidnappings and demanded the government take action.

Maliki is under increasing pressure to stop the violence, which has killed thousands since February. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned this week that Maliki must make progress within the next two months to avert a crisis.

But Maliki's administration has been plagued by growing mistrust between its Shiite and Sunni members, who each accuse the other of fueling the bloodshed.

When Maliki took office in May, he announced a 24-point reconciliation plan that laid out ways to tackle violence -- including an amnesty for militants who put down their weapons as well as security crackdowns. So far, the plan has done little to stem the daily killings.

Sunnis accuse the Shiite-led security forces of turning a blind eye to killing of Sunnis by Shiite militias -- some of which are linked to parties in the government. Sunnis have accused Maliki, a Shiite, of being hesitant to crack down on the militias.

Shiites, meanwhile, accused Sunni parties of links to terrorists after a bodyguard of a Sunni party leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, was arrested by U.S. forces Friday and accused of plotting al-Qaeda bombings. Some Shiite politicians demanded a government reshuffle to push out Sunni parties.

The local committees aim to resolve these disputes.


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