Saturday, January 21, 2006
AP: Sunnis assert their coalition - Jan. 21
By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer - 10 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Sunni Arab politicians called for a government of national unity Saturday and signaled they will use their increased numbers in parliament to curb the power of rival Shiites, who have claimed the biggest number of seats in the new legislature.
Official returns released Friday from the Dec. 15 national election confirmed that the coalition of Shiite religious parties that dominates the outgoing government again won the biggest number of seats in the new parliament but not enough to govern without partners.
The Shiite alliance took 128 of the 275 seats, the election commission said. An alliance of two Kurdish parties allied with the Shiites in the outgoing government won 53 seats.
Sunni Arabs, virtually shut out of the current assembly, scored major gains, opening the door to a greater role in government for the community at the heart of the insurgency. The Friday announcement paves the way for intensive negotiations to form a new government.
U.S. officials are urging formation of a broad-based government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, hoping that will lure insurgents away from violence so that U.S. and other foreign troops can begin withdrawing.
In separate press conferences Saturday, two leading Sunni Arab politicians expressed their interest in joining a coalition government. But they made clear they will insist on curbing the trend toward sectarianism, which many Sunnis blame on policies of the outgoing government led by Shiites and Kurds.
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