Iraqi Summit Set to Begin
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will convene a political summit on Tuesday in hopes of ending Iraq's deepening governmental crisis, he announced Monday.
Top representatives of the country's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political factions met Monday and agreed on the basic structure of the talks, Maliki's office said. Attending the discussions were Maliki, a Shiite; President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; and Vice Presidents Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite. Masoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq, also attended Monday's planning meeting.
Meanwhile, police in the northern city of Kirkuk said that a tribal sheik, Muhsin al-Jabouri, was gunned down as revenge for his work with the U.S. military. Two other religious leaders were killed over the weekend; both had taken part in an expanding American strategy of paying Sunnis to fight insurgents in their neighborhoods.
In recent weeks, three political parties have withdrawn from Maliki's cabinet in separate protests against his leadership, and several key pieces of legislation have stalled. Tuesday's meeting might be the last chance for the discordant political groups to reconcile before the Sept. 15 deadline for the U.S. commander in Iraq to present a progress report to Congress, where support for continuing the American military presence is waning.
In a letter to Talabani, Hashemi expressed frustration that he had been invited to the group's initial meeting less than 24 hours before it began. Hashemi's political group, the Iraqi Accordance Front, has pulled its ministers from Maliki's cabinet but will participate in this week's talks, members said.
Hashemi "expressed his intention to attend this meeting on the condition of attendance by all caucus leaders who have countervailing views about how to run Iraq," a spokesman from the vice president's office said.
Also on Monday, the U.S. military announced that it had captured senior leaders of two Shiite insurgent groups accused of attacking soldiers and civilians in Baghdad.
Early Monday morning, U.S. troops arrested a man in western Baghdad who is accused of financing insurgent cells and maintaining a link to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite al-Quds Force.
The U.S. military has long maintained that Iran is supporting Shiite insurgents in Iraq. Iran's leadership has denied the accusations and to date the United States has provided no direct evidence of such a link.
A military spokesman also announced that a senior leader of the Mahdi Army, the most powerful Shiite militia in Iraq, and five subordinates had been captured Saturday by the Iraqi army with help from U.S. troops. The man is accused of coordinating attacks in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, where seven car bombs killed nearly 100 people in July.
In a separate incident, one U.S. soldier was killed in combat in Baghdad on Monday, the military said.
Also Monday, U.S. forces launched a new operation against Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. A press statement announcing the operation said the military will conduct simultaneous strikes around the country to reduce the capabilities of the groups.
Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi and Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.