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Allawi, other centrists announce coalition
Updated: 2005-10-18 10:35

Iraq's former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and other secular leaders announced a new coalition Monday they said unites moderate Sunnis, Shiites and other political groups to run in December's parliamentary elections.

The coalition appeared to be aimed at striking a middle ground in Iraq's sharply divided political scene, where parties have been strictly defined on sectarian lines, including the Shiite and Kurdish groups that now dominate the government.

"This conference is a major attempt to create a political bloc able to bring unity to this country and intent on saving the people from sectarian strife," said Mahdi al-Hafidh, a former planning minister.

It also could be a vehicle for Allawi to try to return himself to a position of influence. With strong U.S. backing, the secular Shiite was named prime minister of an interim government put in place after American administrators returned sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2005.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2005. [AP]
Allawi and his allies were swept out of power in January parliament elections the first national vote since Saddam Hussein's fall in April 2003. Clerical-backed Shiite parties won a majority in parliament and kept Allawi out of their coalition with the Kurds.

Monday's Iraqi Unity Conference was attended by politicians in the current government, including Sunni Arab Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, as well as others outside the coalition including Tariq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which was the sole Sunni Arab party to support the new constitution ahead of Saturday's nationwide referendum.

Allawi urged Iraqis to participate in the next elections, describing them on Monday as "the most significant landmark in the Iraqi journey toward stability and progress."

The Dec. 15 vote will select a new parliament. If the constitution is adopted in Saturday's referendum votes are still being counted the new parliament will select Iraq's first constitutional government. If it is rejected, the new legislature will be temporary and draw up a new charter.

The referendum vote has sharply divided Iraqis, with Sunni Arabs widely rejecting it and Shiites and Kurds in support.

"We have to end the split that has weakened moderates and to prepare a cohesive bloc for the next elections," Adnan Pachachi, a prominent Iraqi Sunni politician, said at Monday's conference.

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