Iraqi politicians reached tentative agreement Sunday at a conference in Cairo that violence should stop, some detainees should be freed and U.S. forces should gradually withdraw. The value of the accord, however, was uncertain with the absence of anyone representing insurgent groups.
The agreement fell short of the demand by Sunni Muslims for a firm timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, but it offered a commitment to release Sunni detainees said to be held without charge and tortured. Sunni Muslims are believed to make up the bulk of Iraq's tenacious insurgency.
Delegates said the compromise emerged during negotiations attended by Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, who hosted the reconciliation effort, and Ashraf Qazi, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq. The meeting ends on Monday.
One insurgent group, al Qaeda in Iraq, derided the conference and the participants.
"The aim is to make Sunni Muslims accept the [American] dirty political game," the group said in a statement. "The Crusaders should know that these dwarves can't walk in the streets of Baghdad, except in their fortified headquarters or convoys."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, seeking to create a conciliatory tone for the conference, told reporters he was willing to talk to violent opponents of his government if they wanted to contact him.
Talabani said: "If those who call themselves the Iraqi resistance desired to contact me, I would welcome them. I would not refuse to meet any Iraqi who wants to meet me. But of course that does not mean I will accept what he says."
The Arab League set up the meeting out of concern that Iraq was slipping toward civil war and to try to show Iraqis that fellow Arabs are willing to work for a political compromise.