Iraqi leaders warm to political dialogue

Dec. 28, 2011 at 11:20 AM
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ERBIL, Iraq, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Political leaders in Iraq have no option but to have talks to prevent the political structure from collapsing, a Sunni-backed lawmaker said.

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr this week called for elections after political infighting caused Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to seek refuge in Kurdish provinces.

Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants the Kurdish leader arrested on terrorism charges, something the Sunni vice president denies.

A member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya slate said his party accepted President Jalal Talabani's invitation for political discussions in an effort to defuse tensions in the country.

"We have no other option," Salman al-Jumaili told Bloomberg News from Erbil, the Kurdish capital. "This meeting is to save the political process from collapsing."

Iraqiya, which won elections last year but was unable to form a parliamentary majority, walked away from the political process last week.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there was "an urgent need" for Iraqi lawmakers to settle their differences through negotiations.

"Elections are set on some future date but what really needs to happen now is the political parties need to sit down and hash through some of these issues," Toner said.

The political conflict erupted almost immediately after U.S. forces ended their mission in Iraq after more than eight years.

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