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Sunni-backed Iraqiya Alliance to End Iraq Parliament Boycott


Iraq's Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi during a meeting for the main Sunni-backed bloc in Baghdad, January 29, 2012

Iraq's Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi during a meeting for the main Sunni-backed bloc in Baghdad, January 29, 2012

An Iraqi political alliance backed by many Sunnis says it will end a month-long boycott of parliament, easing a political crisis that has exposed deep sectarian divisions in Iraq's national unity government.

Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoon al-Damluji said Sunday the alliance's lawmakers will resume attendance of parliamentary sessions this week for the first time since mid-December to improve the atmosphere for a proposed national conference on resolving the crisis. Iraqiya's announcement followed a meeting of its senior leaders including parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi, and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Iraqiya says it has not decided whether to end a separate boycott of Cabinet meetings chaired by Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The political crisis erupted last month when the prime minister ordered the arrest of Iraq's Sunni vice president on charges of running a death squad and asked parliament to fire a Sunni deputy prime minister who described Maliki as a dictator.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Multak both are Iraqiya members. Hashemi denied wrongdoing and fled to northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid detention.

Iraqiya responded to Maliki's moves by boycotting parliament and the Cabinet and accusing him of trying to centralize power in the hands of the National Alliance, Iraq's main Shi'ite bloc.

Iraqiya won the most seats in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election with strong support from minority Sunnis, but failed to form a majority coalition and agreed to join a unity government led by incumbent Prime Minister Maliki's National Alliance.

Iraq's political crisis has coincided with a surge in bombings and other attacks, mainly targeting government buildings, security forces and majority Shi'ites. Hundreds of people have been killed since late December as militants try to exploit sectarian tensions within the government.

In the latest violence Sunday, Iraqi authorities say a roadside bomb went off in southern Baghdad's Zafaraniyah district, killing one person and wounding nine others. Elsewhere, authorities say a sticky bomb attached to a car blew up in the eastern town of Muqdadiya, killing a civilian.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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