Mon, Dec 19, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Sunnis, Shiites appeal for unity

VIOLENT WEEKENDA wave of attacks in Kirkuk and Baghdad killed at least 13 people as Iraqis await the results of last Thursday's national polls

AFP , BAGHDAD

Sunni supporters of the Iraqi National Concord Front, the largest Sunni list to contest last Thursday's national elections, hold up banners during a demonstration in Kirkuk yesterday. At least 13 Iraqis were killed as violence picked up yesterday after Sunni and Shiite politicians appealed for unity in government. The banner reads in Arabic: ``Yes to elections that achieve Iraqi unity, not division.''

PHOTO: AFP

At least 13 Iraqis were killed as violence picked up yesterday while Sunni and Shiite politicians appealed for unity in government following a landmark election conducted in relative peace.

Eight security force personnel were among those shot dead or blown up in a string of attacks in or north of the capital since late on Saturday.

Gunmen killed Dhiab Hamad al-Hamdani and his son Munah, the uncle and nephew of a Kurdish party leader in the disputed oil city of Kirkuk, police said.

Ali Karim al-Assadi, a Shiite member of the Badr Organization, the former military wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), was shot dead in Baghdad, a security source said.

SCIRI is the largest Shiite party and leads the main United Iraqi Alliance coalition, which is tipped to win a sweeping majority in the Shiite south when the results are finalized from Thursday's general election.

Despite days of relative calm amid a massive security clampdown, lifted yesterday after the election, the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda has warned minority Sunni Arabs against being lulled into a false sense of security by the polls.

"Do not be fooled by what you have heard of the propaganda from the crusaders and their footmen," the group said on the Internet, threatening to continue its attacks.

The fallen Sunni elite, who largely boycotted a vote for a transitional assembly in January, flocked to polls to elect a full-term parliament and boost their political representation over the next four years.

US President George W. Bush, whose approval ratings have slumped over the rising US body count in Iraq was to give a speech from the Oval Office later yesterday to lay out the way forward in Iraq.

The US is expected to trim troop levels from about 150,000 to 138,000 by the end of next month with General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, to make recommendations on whether further cuts can be made.

Official election results from are not expected for around nine days with vote counting still taking place at provincial level.

Members of parliament will then appoint a president and two vice presidents, who will have 15 days to name a prime minister, who must form a Cabinet backed by parliament.

Leading Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi on Saturday called for a coalition to protect national unity in a new parliament and thanked insurgents for not attacking polling stations during the vote.

"We will work towards finding a strong coalition in the national assembly that can protect the rights of Iraqis," said the politician, a leader of the Iraqi National Concord Front, the largest Sunni list to contest the vote.

With US officials and the UN appealing for the quick formation of a government that reaches across the sectarian divide, outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari also urged Sunni-Shiite unity.

"To our brothers in Mosul, Ramadi and Tikrit, I say your brothers in Najaf, Karbala and Hilla have waited a long time to work hand in hand with you under the dome of the next parliament to build the new Iraq," he said.

Firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has allies on the main Shiite coalition led by SCIRI leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, said that he would support "anyone or any list who serves the Iraqi people and wants the independence of Iraq."

"The occupiers do not want to serve the interest of the people but their own interest and want therefore to bring those who serve that interest to power."

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