Iraqi leaders condemn terrorism against Iraqi citizens but not against U.S. and Iraqi forces
By SALAH NASRAWI - Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - (AP) Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites,
Kurds and Sunnis on Monday condemned terrorism but said their denunciation
of the tactic did not include insurgent attacks launched against foreign
troops or the Iraqi armed forces, which it called a legitimate right to
The gathering also said there should be a timetable for the
withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country.
The final communique, hammered out at the end of three intense days
of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the
auspices of the Arab League, was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni
position that insurgents in Iraq who are fighting the American and other
foreign forces should not be labeled terrorists.
"Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism
does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of
violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian,
civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships,"
the document said.
The communique included no means for implementing its provisions,
leaving it unclear what it will mean in reality other than to stand as a
symbol of a first step toward bringing the feuding parties together in an
agreement in principle.
"We are committed to this statement as far as it is in the best
interests of the Iraqi people," said Harith al-Dhari, leader of the powerful
Association of Muslim Scholars, a hard-line Sunni group. He said he had
reservations about the document as a whole and delegates said he had again
expressed strong opposition to the concept of federalism enshrined in Iraq's
Federalism, from the Sunni point of view, would allow the Kurds in
the north and the Shiites in the south, both oil-rich regions, to form
semiautonomous states. That would leave the oil-poor Sunni-controlled center
of the country cut out of the country's prime source of wealth.
The conference also decided on broad conditions for selecting
delegates to a wider reconciliation gathering in the last week of February
or the first week of March in Iraq. It essentially opens the way for all
those who are willing to renounce violence against fellow Iraqis.
Shiites had been skeptical of the just concluded conference and were
strongly opposed participation by Sunni Arab officials from the former
Saddam regime or from pro-insurgency groups. That objection seemed to have
been glossed over in the communique.
The three-day gathering was part of a U.S.-backed league attempt to
bring the communities closer together and assure Sunni Arab participation in
a political process now dominated by Iraq's Shiite majority and large
The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of
foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an
immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the
borders and the security situation" and end terror attacks.
"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when the foreign
forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt
and when they can enjoy peace and stability and erase terrorism," the
Sunni leaders have been pressing the Shiite-majority government to
agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The statement
recognized that goal, but did not lay down a specific time _ reflecting
instead the government's stance that Iraqi security forces must be built up
On Monday, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr suggested U.S.-led
forces should able to leave Iraq by the end of next year, saying the
one-year extension of the mandate for multinational force in Iraq by the
U.N. Security Council earlier this month could be the last.
"By the middle of next year we will be 75 percent done in building
our forces and by the end of next year it will be fully ready," he told the
Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.
The Cairo meeting was marred by differences between participants at
times, and at one point Shiite and Kurdish delegates stormed out of a closed
session when one of the speakers said they had sold out to the Americans.
The final communique stressed participants' commitment to the Iraq's
unity and called for the release of all "innocent detainees" who have not
been convicted by courts. It asked that allegations of torture against
prisoners be investigated and those responsible be held accountable.
The statement also demanded "an immediate end to arbitrary raids and
arrests without a documented judicial order."
Shiite leaders hailed the communiqué as "victory" for the country.
"God willing, this will be a beginning for an accord," said radical
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a statement read to the conference.
"This is an excellent statement. We have all Iraqis condemning
terror. Now we should all act to stop it," said Jalal al-Din al -Saghir, a
leader the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful
Participants asked the Arab sponsors of the meeting to support Iraq
by eliminating or reducing its debt and strengthening the Arab diplomatic
presence in Baghdad.