08/27/2007, 00.00
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Political leaders reach accord but reconciliation still far away

Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds announce agreement on some ‘key issues.’ White House welcomes move, but analysts invite caution. Sunni block warns they will continue their boycott of the government.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders have signed an agreement on key issues to resolve the political crisis that has recently paralysed the government led by Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The accord was the second step towards national reconciliation, Mr Maliki said, after four Kurdish and Shia parties formed a new alliance.

Many however remain sceptical, especially after the Sunni block that caused the government crisis warned that it would continue its boycott.

Few elements of the agreement have been made public, but they include allowing elements from Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘ath Party back into government and run for office; releasing prisoners detained without trial and compromising on oil revenue-sharing legislation.

The White House welcomed the development. In the United States many are waiting for US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker to report to US Congress in mid-September on progress in Iraq since the troop surge.

Maliki appeared on TV with four other top Iraqi leaders: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (Kurd), Vice Presidents Tareq al-Hashemi (Sunni) and Adel Abdul-Mahdi (Shia), and Masoud Barzani, president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

But many analysts remain cautious about the significance of the televised press conference, which seemed designed more to give a sense of movement than to convey the substance of any significant agreement.

Mr Hashemi said in fact he had taken part in the talks as vice-president but did not say whether his Iraqi Islamic Party was about to join the moderate Shia-Kurdish alliance.

Saleem al-Jubouri, a spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front, said for his part that the deal reached on Sunday would not by itself be enough to lure the ministers from his party back into the cabinet.

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