Sunni Group to End Five-Week Boycott Of Iraqi Parliament

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 20, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 19 -- Iraq's largest Sunni political group announced Thursday that it will end its boycott of parliament, returning the legislative body to full strength for the first time in five weeks.

The Iraqi Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats in the 275-member parliament, had pulled out last month to protest the dismissal of Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of the group's senior members. Mashhadani resumed his duties Thursday, presiding over a legislative session.

"We are looking to improve Iraq's situation, and a boycott will do nothing to help that," said Saleem al-Jubouri, a spokesman for the Accordance Front and a member of parliament. "We want to reform the whole situation, so we should participate in the government."

The Accordance Front's announcement came two days after a 30-member Shiite bloc ended its own boycott of parliament. Legislators loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had suspended their participation last month to protest what they called a failure by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to protect a historic Shiite shrine in Samarra from insurgent attacks.

Legislators said the Accordance Front struck a deal with the other political groups stipulating that Mashhadani would return as speaker for a set period, possibly until parliament goes into recess for August. At that point, Mashhadani will resign and the Accordance Front will choose a new speaker, according to Khudair al-Khuzai, Iraq's education minister and a Shiite member of parliament who belongs to Maliki's Dawa party.

"The agreement between all the blocs is that he will return for a short time and then resign or retire," Khuzai said. "This was not a personal problem or a political problem; there is a problem with his performance in parliament. We are glad that the Accordance Front have realized that a boycott will not improve the situation of the country."

Jubouri, the Accordance Front spokesman, disputed Khuzai's account, saying that the other political blocs had agreed to reinstate Mashhadani permanently.

"He's back as head of the parliament, and nobody put any kind of conditions on that," Jubouri said. Parliament voted to remove Mashhadani in June after one of his bodyguards was accused of roughing up another lawmaker.

Parliament's work has been all but paralyzed for the past several weeks without the 74 members -- more than 25 percent of the total body -- who suspended participation. Legislators are scheduled to consider several significant bills in the coming days but then will be on vacation. The delay in approving one of those bills, a proposal to regulate the oil industry, was among the areas the Bush administration rated "unsatisfactory" in a report to Congress last week.

Meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers have been charged with murdering an Iraqi near the northern city of Kirkuk, the military announced Thursday.

Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales of San Antonio and Spec. Christopher P. Shore of Winder, Ga., were each charged with one count of premeditated murder in connection with the killing of an Iraqi citizen on June 23, a statement from the military said. The two men, who are based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, were stationed near Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that has experienced increasing violence and heightened ethnic tension. They could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The soldiers' commander, Lt. Col. Michael Browder, was removed from his post because of the "totality of the circumstances surrounding this incident and due to a lack of confidence in his ability to command effectively," the military statement said. Browder is not accused of committing a crime.

On Wednesday, a U.S. Marine was found guilty of conspiring to kidnap and kill an Iraqi man last year. Three other U.S. soldiers were charged last month with the murders of three Iraqis in separate incidents south of Baghdad.

A U.S. soldier was killed by gunfire Thursday in Rushdi Mullah, about 15 miles southwest of Baghdad, the military announced. Four soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed Wednesday in a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad.

At least 10 people were killed Thursday in other violence in Baghdad, police said, while an attack on a Sunni mosque in the city's al-Jihad neighborhood destroyed its minaret. Mortar attacks in the same neighborhood killed two civilians, police said.

A police officer said 17 bodies had been found in different Baghdad neighborhoods, evidently the victims of sectarian slayings. The victims had been tortured and shot in the head, the officer said.

Special correspondents Dalya Hassan and Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.

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