Al-Malaki asks Sunnis to reconsider….(developing)
Sunni bloc quits Cabinet as attacks kill 142 Iraqis (Update)
By Lauren Frayer, Associated Press, Article Last Updated: 08/02/2007 02:52:15 AM PDT
var requestedWidth = 0; BAGHDAD — Baghdad shook with bombings and political upheaval Wednesday as the largest Sunni Arab bloc quit the government and a suicide attacker blew up his fuel tanker in one of several attacks that claimed 142 lives nationwide.
The Iraqi Accordance Front’s withdrawal from the Cabinet leaves only two Sunnis in the 40-member body, undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to pull together rival factions and pass reconciliation laws the U.S. considers benchmarks that could lead to sectarian reconciliation.
The U.S. military announced the deaths of four more American soldiers, including three killed in Baghdad on Tuesday by a powerful armor-piercing bomb. Washington says these types of bombs are sent from Iran. The fourth soldier was killed by small arms fire on the same day. A British soldier also was killed Tuesday in a roadside bombing.
The American military announced it found a mass grave in Diyala province northeast of the capital. The grave contained 17 bodies of mostly Sunni Muslims — including women, children and elderly people — killed by al-Qaida in Iraq, the military said in a statement.
Altogether at least 142 Iraqis were killed or found dead, including 70 in three separate bombings Wednesday in Baghdad. The violence came after July ended as the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year, but with the lowest U.S. death toll in eight months.
Bombs rock Baghdad, killing 70, as unity government crumbles
Thunderous car bomb blasts echoed around Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 70 people, as Iraq’s national unity coalition collapsed under the weight of sectarian tensions.New government figures also revealed civilian deaths in the country rose by one third last month, dealing a further blow to a five-month-old security plan designed to stabilise Baghdad and allow for reconciliation. Three large bombs tore through crowded districts of the capital, leaving at least 70 people dead and feeding the communal bitterness that has undermined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s US-backed government.….As the explosions rumbled across the city, ministers from the Concord Front, Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc, resigned from the ruling coalition and effectively ended its claim to be a government of national unity.“The Front announces its withdrawal from the government of Nuri al-Maliki and the deputy prime minister and the ministers will submit their resignation today,” said Rafie al-Issawi, minister of state for foreign affairs.
Issawi made the announcement at a news conference inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone as Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and other senior members of the bloc stood behind him.
Hashemi will remain vice president and the bloc’s 44 parliamentarians will return to the National Assembly in September after its summer recess, when they will swell the already growing ranks of the opposition.
The Front has accused the government of failing to rein in Shiite militias and of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Sunnis, but on Wednesday leaders seemed to leave the door open for future discussions.
“Our central and historic goal is reform. We will reconsider the withdrawal tomorrow if they review our demands,” Hashemi said.
The decision comes at a time when Maliki’s government is under intense pressure to make use of the space afforded by a five-month-old “surge” of US troops to hammer out political agreements between the rival factions.
But with parliament having gone on holiday without passing any of the benchmark reforms demanded by Washington, it is unlikely any progress will be made ahead of September’s progress report to the US Congress on the surge.
“Democracy is never easy,” US embassy spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters. “It is certainly not easy with the problems that face Iraq. These are things that Iraqi political leaders need to grapple with.”
In a further blow to the surge, numbers released by government ministries on Wednesday revealed that the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the country’s brutal civil conflict rose by more than a third in July.
At least 1,652 civilians were killed in Iraq in July, 33 percent more than in the previous month, according to figures compiled by the Iraqi health, defence and interior ministries and made available to AFP.
Meanwhile, the US military said four more troops were killed on Tuesday, bringing US losses since the March 2003 invasion to 3,653, with 83 killed in July, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
Separately, Britain confirmed that another of its soldiers had been killed by a bomb in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, bringing to 164 the number to have died in Iraq.