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Maliki 'opens the door' for Sons of Iraq

March 20, 2008 at 4:40 PM

BAGHDAD, March 20 (UPI) -- Iraq's premier marked the birthday of Prophet Mohammed in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad by pledging to merge the Sons of Iraq into national security forces.

Nouri al-Maliki made his remarks Thursday at the mosque of Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Sunni school of Islamic jurisprudence.

Maliki's statements followed the demands of Sheik Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, the former head of a Sunni establishment charged with caring for Sunni mosques. Al-Samarrai called on the Iraqi government to recruit members of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi national army and police forces, al-Sumaria said Thursday.

The visit to the Sunni mosque by the Shiite prime minister was seen as a positive step in healing the sectarian divisions in Iraq, Voices of Iraq said, and al-Maliki promised to "open the doors" for the Sons of Iraq.

"I am proud of the efforts of the sons of this neighborhood. We will welcome our sons who are challenging terrorism and injustice. They will have suitable jobs. What they have done is amazing," Maliki said.

A Sunni-led "Awakening" emerged from tribal leaders in Anbar province last year to take security into their own hands and drive elements of al-Qaida out of Iraq.

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