Iraqi leaders in Cairo reconciliation quest

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
CAIRO, Nov 19 (AFP) - Iraqi leaders from across the political and ethnic
spectrum were on Saturday to discuss reconciliation in their strife-torn
country during Arab League-sponsored meetings in Cairo.

The three-day talks are only meant to prepare for a larger conference to
take place in Iraq but officials are hoping they will provide an opportunity
to start ironing out differences between the country's feuding communities.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said the meeting was "part of steps
aimed at promoting the political process in Iraq" and called on all sides to
demonstrate "goodwill towards achieving positive results."

"We support any step which might contribute to stability," Jaafari told
reporters on arrival in Cairo.

The meetings are to gather representatives of the disenchanted Sunni former
elite, as well as the newly empowered Shiite majority and the non-Arab

The Sunni Arab minority, which dominated Saddam Hussein's regime and all
previous Iraqi governments, has largely stood aloof from the political
process since his overthrow, providing the backbone of the persistent

Sunni leaders, for their part, charge that Kurdish and Shiite leaders are
seeking to marginalise their community and are bitter over a constitution
that many Sunnis charge could hasten the break-up of Iraq.

Joining the meeting alongside the Shiite prime minister will be Foreign
Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, Vice President Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni, the
head of the main Sunni clerics' association, Hareth al-Dari, and the head of
the largest Sunni political faction, the Islamic Party, Tareq al-Hashemi.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, will be taking part in the opening

Arab League sources have said former Baathists will be attending as members
of some delegations, something that may irk top Shiites who have insisted
that they were not ready to talk to Sunnis opposed to their new regime.

There are notable absentees such as Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the main
Shiite party SCIRI, and radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but both are
sending delegations in their places.

Alongside the Iraqi leaders, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara, Iranian
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika are to attend the meeting.