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Archive for Sunday, October 26, 2008

Iraq’s main Sunni party suspends contacts with US

October 26, 2008

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— Iraq's largest Sunni party said Saturday that it has suspended official contacts with American military personnel and civilians after the killing of a man near Fallujah.

The Iraqi Islamic Party accused the raid of having a "hidden political motive" in an indication of rising tensions in Anbar province ahead of provincial elections, due to be held by the end of January.

The U.S. military said U.S.-backed Iraqi soldiers arrested a wanted insurgent leader suspected of training roadside bomb cells in an operation Friday that killed an armed man who opened fire on the troops.

The IIP alleged that a senior member of the party was killed in his bed and five others were arrested during the raid in the Halabsa area on the outskirts of the former insurgent stronghold.

It accused the troops of targeting party members after its success in forging tribal alliances with other political blocs.

"The hidden political motive behind this incident is clear," the party said in a statement posted on its Web site.

The party said it "has decided to suspend all official contacts with the Americans, both military and civilians, until the party receives a reasonable explanation about what happened, along with an official apology."

It also demanded assurance those responsible would be punished, compensation for the victims and the release of the five detainees.

Supporters of the Iraqi Islamic Party rallied Saturday in Fallujah to protest the raid.

The IIP has been locked in a bitter rivalry with Sunni tribal leaders who joined forces with the United States against al-Qaida in Iraq in so-called Awakening Councils that started in Anbar and spread to other Sunni areas.

That has raised concerns that the political tensions could lead to new violence by disrupting the Sunni revolt, which is considered a key factor in recent security gains.

American forces handed over security responsibility for the province to the Iraqis on Sept. 1 but retain a presence in Anbar, which stretches west from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Also Saturday, about 300 Shiites rallied in the southern city of Basra against a U.S.-Iraqi security pact currently under negotiation.

The demonstrators were members of a local Muslim charity linked to Iraq's largest Shiite political party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or SIIC.

The council has not decided whether to support the security agreement, and its decision will be crucial in determining whether it wins parliamentary approval.

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