Iraq hints at dialogue with rebels




 
--
Boots
 
November 27th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Iraq hints at dialogue with rebels


by Joelle Bassoul


BAGHDAD, Nov 26 (AFP) - Some Iraqi rebel groups say they are ready to engage
in the political process, a top aide to President Jalal Talabani said
Saturday, after the government warned of a renewed offensive against
insurgents.

"We have received calls from people who said they belonged to armed groups,"
Talabani's national security advisor Lieutenant-General Wafeeq al-Sammarai
told AFP, adding that the callers "said they were ready to join the
political process."

They included Islamists and Baathists from the now banned party of deposed
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, said Sammarai, who was the head of Iraqi
military intelligence in the 1991 Gulf War.

At a meeting of Iraqi political leaders in Cairo last weekend, Talabani said
he was prepared to talk to rebels in a bid to end the deadly insurgency that
has gripped the country since Saddam's downfall in 2003.

"If those who describe themselves as the Iraqi resistance want to get in
touch with me, they are welcome to do so," Talabani said.

The Cairo meeting was held to pave the ground for a reconciliation
conference next year in Baghdad and to encourage minority Sunni Arabs, seen
as backing the insurgency, to join the political process instead.

Sammarai gave no further details on which rebel groups might have been in
touch, or how much of a following they might have within the insurgency
which US forces described as multi-faceted.

The announcement comes amid a wave of suicide bombings and sectarian-related
shootings that have left at least 180 over the past week in the run-up to
the resumption of Saddam's trial on Monday.

In violence on Saturday, three Iraqi soldiers were shot dead north of
Baghdad and a US contractor and four Iraqis were wounded in a bomb blast
targeting a US military convoy in the capital.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Bayan Baker Solagh told reporters that
security forces were preparing to launch a comprehensive sweep involving
10,000 men throughout the country against rebels before the December 15
elections.

"We are going to strike forcefully at the hotbeds of terrorism in different
regions," he said.

Government spokesman Leith Kubba has warned that "one should expect an
increase in violence in the run-up to the December 15 elections," saying
those responsible were "criminals and partisans of Saddam Hussein".

Sammarai said those who contacted him were all Iraqis and that he would have
no dealings with foreign fighters such as Jordanian-born Al-Qaeda leader Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group is behind most of the bloodiest attacks.

Zarqawi condemned Talabani's initiative and is widely believed to be
attempting to spark a sectarian war in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites in
effort to increase chaos and discredit the US-backed government.

In two attacks on Thursday, both south of Baghdad, a suicide car bombing
against a hospital in Mahmudiyah killed 30 people and a car bomb in a
shopping district of Hilla left three dead and 16 wounded.

Several Sunni Arab political and religious leaders have also been gunned
down over the past weeks, including a tribal leader and four of his
relatives early Wednesday by gunmen dressed as Iraqi soldiers.

In Baghdad, security officials were preparing for the resumption of the
trial of Saddam, who along with seven co-accused faces charges linked to the
killing of 148 Shiite villagers.

The first witnesses for the prosecution are expected to be called. They
could testify from behind screens or with faces masked to protect their
anonymity, according to a US official close to the tribunal.

Saddam and his co-accused could face execution if found guilty.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said his country
would reduce the number of its soldiers serving in Iraq at the start of next
year.

Some 100 Lithuanian troops are currently deployed in Iraq, around 50 under
Polish command in central Iraq and 50 under Danish command in the
British-controlled southern sector.