Sunni Bloc Ends Boycott of Iraqi Parliament

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 3, 2007

BAGHDAD, Dec. 2 -- Iraq's largest Sunni political bloc ended a boycott of parliament Sunday after its leader said the Shiite-led government had lifted his house arrest.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, the head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, said he was allowed to leave his home for the first time since Friday, when the Iraqi military arrested his son and dozens of other employees after one of them was found with the keys to a car rigged with explosives.

"The Iraqi Accordance Front will now attend the parliament sessions," Dulaimi told al-Sharqiya television.

Dulaimi said Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, escorted him from his home to the Rasheed Hotel, next to the parliament building in the fortress-like Green Zone.

The government has said Dulaimi, who denied that his employees had done anything wrong, was always free to leave his home.

The end of the boycott defused the latest confrontation in an increasingly tense relationship between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite political parties. Six Sunni ministers left the cabinet this summer, hindering attempts at political reconciliation among the different religious and ethnic sects.

Also Sunday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte said a crucial vote on the status of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk would not be held this year.

"Clearly, it's not going to be possible between now and the end of this year to mount a referendum," he said, according to the Reuters news service. "Efforts will be made in the new year to get a process going forward."

The Iraqi constitution calls for a vote in 2007 to determine whether Kirkuk, a city with a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, will be included in the Kurdish autonomous region. But a census of eligible voters has not yet begun.

Sunni Arabs and Turkmens, worried that they will be forced out of Kirkuk if the referendum proceeds, are hoping to delay or cancel it.

"The referendum about Kirkuk's future is impossible this year or the next year," said Sheik Abdullah Sami al-Asi, a Sunni member of Kirkuk's local council. "We expect this postponement because the Iraqi situation is still politically disintegrated and the security situation is very difficult."

But Kamiran Kirkukly, a local Kurdish leader, insisted that the referendum take place this year. "There is a procrastination from the government, and we can't wait or keep silent," he said. "It is possible to conduct a census by the Ministry of Planning and seize the moment to hold the referendum before the constitutional period ends."

Also Sunday, police in the western province of Anbar said a mass grave with 20 bodies, including women and children, had been found in the city of Fallujah last week. Aiman Zaidan, a resident who saw the corpses, including a naked woman, said the victims' hands were bound and their mouths covered with what appeared to be masking tape.

Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Dalya Hassan in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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