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Iraqi PM courts Sunni tribal leaders


Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Tuesday reached out to tribal leaders in the country’s Sunni heartland, calling for an end to sectarian identity politics.

Al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim, praised the Sunni tribesmen of Iraq’s western al-Anbar province for their role in “maintaining the national unity of Iraq”, and for “the great sacrifices” they had made in “battling the evil designs of wanted terrorists” who, he said, sought to divide the country.

The prime minister’s visit followed a sharp rise in sectarian violence across Iraq.

On Monday, a wave of bomb attacks, mostly targeting Shia Muslims, left at least 55 people dead and hundreds wounded. They were the latest in a series of sectarian attacks that have killed more than 100 Iraqis in the past three days alone.

“Iraq must be guided by a responsible… national political process based on a national identity, not racism and sectarianism,” al-Maliki said. “We are committed to the law and the constitution.”

In response to one common Sunni demand, the release of officers from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime, al-Maliki said that was a decision for the courts, not the prime minister, to take.

The prime minister said that sectarian divisions were interfering with the government’s efforts to address problems with agriculture, healthcare, housing and education in the country.

“We all must work to preserve the … unity of Iraq, to protect the country from outside interference and to stand up to the saboteurs and spoilers, so that we can build Iraq,” he said.