White House wants Iraqi leaders to unite

July 22, 2007 at 10:02 AM

WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- Despite major setbacks, the White House is pressing ahead with efforts to forge a political consensus among Iraq's sectarian leaders.

Officials are trying to develop a negotiating process that will let rival factions sort their differences, enact a national oil law and pass legislation aimed at bringing ex-Baathists into the government, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Expecting all that to be done quickly is akin to asking the U.S. Congress to handle abortion, gun control and other controversial issues in a matter of months, a senior White House official told The Post.

Instead, the White House aims to set Iraqi leaders on a path to "political accommodation on some of the major issues" and create "a very sound foundation to build upon," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Many remain deeply skeptical the initiative will bear fruit, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I believe we should promote a political settlement that allows the warring factions breathing room in their own regions," Biden told The Post.

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