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    Iraqi Political Factions Agree to Resolve Disputed Issues

    Top leaders from Iraq's Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions say they have agreed to resolve key issues to boost national reconciliation.

    Five Iraqi political leaders announced the pledge Sunday.

    Iraqi officials say they agreed to ease restrictions on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party joining government ministries, among other measures. But the office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said more talks are needed on constitutional reforms and a critical oil law.

    The White House congratulated Iraqi leaders on the pledge, saying it was "important symbol" of their readiness to work for all Iraqis.

    The pledge came ahead of a September deadline for a U.S. report on progress in Iraq. The U.S. Congress has demanded that Iraq meet certain benchmarks in exchange for continued funding of the war.

    Earlier Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rebuked U.S. politicians who have called for his removal from office. Mr. Maliki said Democratic Party Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Carl Levin need to - in the prime minister's words - "come to their senses."

    Clinton is a U.S. presidential candidate.

    In other news Sunday, U.S. forces bombed a house in northern Iraq after insurgents were seen entering the building following a firefight with U.S. troops. Iraqi police say the air strike in Samarra killed seven civilians, including five children.

    U.S. military officials have not confirmed the casualties, but say they regret any harm to civilians.

    In another incident, an Iraqi Kurdish official said a U.S. airstrike killed four Kurdish policemen and wounded eight others in northeastern Iraq. A spokesman for Iraq's Kurdish Peshmerga militia. Jabar Yawar said U.S. aircraft attacked two Kurdish police outposts, near the town of Qara Tepe in Diyala Province in a possible case of "friendly fire."

    Also Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites converged on Iraq's holy city of Karbala for a major religious festival. Iraqi officials have banned vehicles from roads along the pilgrimage route to prevent sectarian attacks.

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

     

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