Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Sunni blocs in Iraqi parliament boycott house over speaker

AP , BAGHDAD

Two Sunni Arab blocs in Iraq's parliament boycotted the 275-seat house yesterday because the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was not reinstated as they demanded.

Muhannad al-Issawi, a spokesman for Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, had said that 44-seat bloc decided in a meeting on Saturday to demand that al-Mashhadani preside over yesterday's session.

"If the demand is rejected by other blocs, then the Accordance Front will suspend its participation in parliament," al-Issawi said.

The Accordance bloc was joined in the boycott by the 11-seat National Dialogue Front.

The Sunni boycott threatens to further disrupt the work of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government as it seeks to enact legislation, under pressure from the US, to reconcile the differences among Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups.

The Accordance bloc is a participant in the al-Maliki coalition, which already had been undermined by a boycott by the 30-seat Shiite bloc of anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The National Dialogue Front is not part of the government.

Parliament voted June 11 to ask al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, to step down and assigned his deputy, Shiite Khaled al-Attiya, to his place until a permanent replacement was found. It also asked the Accordance Front, to which the speaker belongs, to name a replacement within a week.

Al-Mashhadani repeatedly has embarrassed the Sunni Arabs in al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated coalition government. Many legislators viewed his behavior as unbecoming and occasionally erratic.

A senior lawmaker from the Accordance Front, Salim Abdullah, had said his bloc would return to parliament only if al-Mashhadani is reinstated and a law defining the legal and constitutional grounds for the dismissal of the speaker was adopted.

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