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Sadr, Sunnis Join Hands to Contest Polls


Radical Cleric Says Alliance Aims to 'Consolidate National Unity'

Agence France Presse
October 27, 2005

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday he would present a joint list of candidates with Sunni Arabs in the Al-Anbar Province to contest the upcoming legislative elections. His comments come shortly after three Sunni Arab parties set up a coalition to contest the December 15 elections.

Sadr's organization said it decided to ally itself with the Sunnis due to "the difficult situation facing the country, to prevent the occupier and enemies of Iraq from attaining their goals, to consolidate national identity and to reaffirm its unity." Al-Anbar includes the rebel strongholds of Ramadi and Fallujah, which overwhelmingly rejected the Iraq constitution that was approved by referendum on October 15.

Sadr's office said: "Deputy Fattah al-Sheikh has been designated to form a list in Al-Anbar for the elections." Sheikh told AFP he would "run in Al-Anbar at the head of a list that includes eight Sunni candidates. "Consultations have taken place in recent days to create a national Islamic force" to run against a secular bloc being mooted by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, he said. The talks are continuing, he added.

Meanwhile, the Conference of the People of Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Iraqi National Dialogue "agreed to run on one list under the name Iraqi Concord Front," a joint statement said. The Islamic Party boycotted the January elections but called on voters to approve the constitution. Both the National Dialogue and the Conference of the People both opposed ratifying the constitution. The group's platform will be known in the next few days.

In another political development, the Muslim Scholars Association, an influential group of Sunni clerics, criticized the new constitution, saying it will only "benefit the occupiers and those who collaborate with them." Reading a statement to reporters, spokesman Abdel-Salam al-Kubaissi claimed that "no" votes in the referendum had been blocked in a "big conspiracy against our Iraq." For that reason, he said: "The association will not take part in any political process" in Iraq.

The current government is dominated by a Shiite alliance led by two religious parties - the Daawa Party of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the formerly Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "Talks are ongoing to maintain the Shiite alliance," said senior SCIRI official Ammar Hakim, although he acknowledged it was still too early to say if they would allow the bloc to run common candidates.

Secular Allawi's new group, the Iraqi Conference on National Unity, said it condemned "attempts from some quarters to divide Iraqi society along sectarian lines." The group called on Iraqis "to refrain from recourse to sectarian politics, and to work together for national Unity."

The new government emerging from the election will have a four-year term and have to deal with a raging insurgency.

Meanwhile, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia called for unity in Iraq after the adoption of the new constitution. "We do hope the Iraqi people will unite in an independent Arab country," Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel-Aziz said, according to the official SPA news agency. Kuwaiti leaders also voiced hope the constitution would help achieve unity. "We express our sincere wishes for Iraq and its people to achieve progress and prosperity and lay strong foundations for democracy and equality," Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah said. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said he hoped for "more understanding, solidarity and unity" among the Iraqi people.

In fresh violence, unidentified gunmen shot dead Nabil Yasser al-Moussawi, a top Culture Ministry official, along with his driver, security sources said. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for kidnapping two Moroccan Embassy employees. In Amman, lawyers representing Saddam announced they will boycott the tribunal trying the ousted president until they are given better security. The decision followed the killing of Saadoun Janabi, an attorney representing one of Saddam's co-defendants, just a day after the opening of the trial.

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