Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Date for controversial national conference to be set on Sunday

ERBIL – Political leaders in Iraq are expected to finally set a date this Sunday for a much-debated and anticipated national conference that is hoped to put an end to political dispute in the country.

malikiSpokesman for the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC) in the Iraqi Council of Representatives Farhad Atroushi said the political parties in the country will hold a meeting on Sunday to decide on the date of the conference.

The meeting is expected to include 15 representatives from the major political blocs: seven from the National Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, five from the al-Iraqiya List led by rival leader Ayad Allawi, and three Kurds.

Iyad Allawi, ayad alawiThe conference was originally the idea of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, where all political parties negotiate to find solutions for the issues facing Iraq following the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq in December last year.

Relations between the National Coalition and the al-Iraqiya blocs - two major blocs who have 180 seats together in the 330-seat parliament - deteriorated after attempts by the Shiite-dominated authorities in Baghdad to arrest Sunni leaders on terror charges.

According to observers, the attempts were used by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a pressure card, especially after Sunni leaders in Diyla and Salahadin provinces announced plans for creating federal autonomous regions in their provinces and accusing Baghdad of repression against the Sunnis.

Jalal TalabaniThe news follows the return of Talabani on December 28 following surgery in Germany. He returned directly to Baghdad because the long-heralded conference "depends on his leadership", said senior Patriotic Union of Kurdistan member Fuad Masum.

The KBC previously stated that it feared the conference may fail or not even go ahead in light of the intensifying war of words between the State of Law Coalition and Iraqiya List.

Moqtada al-Sadr,Muqtada al-SadrMeanwhile the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr rejected any idea of holding the conference outside of Baghdad, noting that the KBC agreed on holding the conference in the capital. An official source in the presidency office of the Kurdistan Region previously said President Massoud Barzani will not participate in the conference if it is held in Baghdad.

Massoud BarzaniThe debate over where to hold the conference arose after the leader of Iraqiya List Ayad Allawi preferred to hold it in Kurdistan. Barzani later announced that he will not boycott the conference if it is held in Baghdad, but stated he will send his representative in his stead.

The Sadrist movement's Ahrar bloc then launched a fresh effort at mediating between the State of Law Coalition and Iraqiya List in the run up to the conference.