Home>News Center>World

US officials meet Iraq insurgent groups
Updated: 2006-02-09 09:03

U.S. officials have met figures from some Sunni Arab insurgent groups but have so far not received any commitment for them to lay down their arms, Western diplomats in Baghdad and neighboring Jordan said Wednesday.

Three more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq — two of them in roadside bombings, the U.S. command said.

The meetings, described as being in the initial stage, have not included members of al-Qaida in Iraq or like-minded religious extremists, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Contacts have taken place in western Iraq, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, according to two diplomats based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. One of them said talks might shift to Egypt "at some point."

U.S. officials have said establishing a dialogue with the insurgents was difficult because of the lack of a unified command structure among the various groups and the absence of a leadership capable of speaking for most of them.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the United States is involved in talks on promoting Iraq's political process with "all sorts of groups," but declined to say if any insurgents were among them.

However, a Western diplomat in Baghdad who is familiar with the dialogue said the U.S. was reaching out to "Sunni Arab nationalists" and "some Islamists from the Shiite and Sunni sides," many of whom have grievances about jobs and reconstruction money.

"We hear all the time that they are interested in coming in but we haven't seen signs," the diplomat said. "We want to see attacks stopped. The question is, can they help end the violence if they want to join."

The United States is promoting efforts to form a national unity government in which Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders would offer Sunni Arab figures key positions to try to curb the insurgency.

Talks on a new government are due to begin in earnest after formal certification this week of the results of the Dec. 15 parliament elections. Shiite religious parties won 128 of the 275 seats — but not enough to govern without partners.

Sunni Arabs have insisted that the Shiites give up control of the police in the new government because of alleged human rights abuses by the Shiite-run security services.

On Thursday, Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim addressed Sunni concerns when he urged security forces to obey the constitution in performing their duties.

"We call upon our faithful security forces ... to continue strongly confronting terrorists but with more consideration to human rights," al-Hakim said in a nationally televised speech at a Shiite mosque attended by 5,000 people.

U.N. envoy Ashraf Jehangir Qazi met the head of a prominent Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, Wednesday for talks on Sunni allegations of human rights abuses.

"We have emphasized to the Iraqi government the need to stop these nightly raids and we constantly pursue the veracity of these allegations," U.N. spokesman Said Arikat said. "We worry that if these acts continue, they can only exacerbate the same kind of violence, which will widen the gap between the two different communities."

On Wednesday, the U.S. military said an Army soldier from the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment died of wounds suffered three days earlier in a roadside bombing in Anbar province.

A Marine assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) was killed Monday in a bombing in Anbar, the command said.

Another Marine assigned to the 2d Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died in a non-hostile vehicle accident Tuesday during combat operations near Qaim on the border with Syria, the military said.

Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed ahead of Thursday's Ashoura feast, the climax of a month of commemorations by Shiites mourning the 7th century death of a revered Shiite saint, Imam Hussein.

Hundreds of thousands of Shiites are expected to take part in ceremonies in Baghdad and the southern city of Karbala, where Hussein is believed buried. Processions of men whipping their backs with metal chains marched outside the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala on Wednesday.

Police were on high alert for Sunni Arab insurgent attacks, which have killed more than 230 people during Ashoura processions in the past two years.

Ten homemade bombs planted near a bridge in Latifiyah, between Baghdad and Karbala, were defused Wednesday, an operation that averted an attack on Shiites, police said.

Police found the bodies of four Shiite pilgrims shot repeatedly and dumped on Baghdad's northern outskirts. Three bullet-riddled bodies turned up in Baghdad's Sadr City.

An unarmed and unmanned U.S. aircraft providing security coverage for Ashoura went down near Sadr City on Tuesday and was returned by local leaders Wednesday, the military said. It was unclear what caused the crash.

Higher Education Minister Sami al-Mudafar escaped unharmed from a Baghdad car bomb attack on his convoy in which three of his bodyguards were wounded. It was the second attack on the Shiite lawmaker in two years.

Al-Mudafar has been an outspoken opponent of the increasing influence of Islamists on university campuses. Sunni Arab insurgents also frequently target members of the Iraqi government.

U.S. troops took custody of two teenage brothers suspected in Tuesday's killing of Sheik Kamal Nazal, a Sunni Arab community leader and head of the city council in the former extremist stronghold of Fallujah.

Nazal was killed by gunmen firing from two cars as he walked to work. No group claimed responsibility, but it appeared part of an insurgent campaign against Sunni Arabs who have been promoting a political settlement to stem the violence.

Annual severe winter season drill in South Korea
Muslim world protests over caricatures
Syrians protest over Mohammad cartoon
  Today's Top News     Top World News

Space power China seeks further scientific prowess



Income-tax threshold raised for foreigners



World Bank: China's economy to grow 9.2%



Researchers predict modernizaton progress



China-Japan talks 'expect no breakthrough'



New human case of bird flu found in Fujian


  Iran to persist in nuclear pursuits - official
  Security scare forces US Capitol evacuation
  Koizumi once again defends war shrine visits
  Hamas warns Abbas not to make changes
  Cartoon protesters direct anger at US
  US officials meet Iraq insurgent groups
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.