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Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

Key Iraqi political leaders agree to seek new prime minister

March 2, 2006

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— Key political groups agreed Wednesday to mount a campaign to deny Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari another term in a bid to jump-start stalled talks on a new national unity government.

Meanwhile, at least 47 people died in bombings and shootings across the country. In the deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded near a market and a traffic police office in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad, killing 29 people and wounding 67, the Interior Ministry said.

The move against al-Jaafari is expected to draw sharp opposition from the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The firebrand Shiite leader's support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination over Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites elected to the new parliament Dec. 15.

Al-Sadr's militiamen were believed behind many of the attacks against Sunni mosques last week, and the prospect of a prime minister in debt to the young radical has alarmed mainstream politicians, including some in the Shiite alliance.

They fear a strong role for al-Sadr could sharpen sectarian tensions that have already pushed the country to the brink of civil war and complicate U.S. plans to begin drawing down American forces this year.

The campaign against al-Jaafari, which has been building for weeks, is spearheaded by three major political blocs that have been in U.S.-backed talks with the Shiite alliance on forming a new government.

During a meeting Wednesday, leaders of three parties, including Sunnis, Kurds and the secularists of ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, agreed to ask the Shiite alliance to withdraw al-Jaafari's nomination and put forward another candidate.

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