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Talks Aim to Bring Sunnis into Iraq Government

Following the low turnout of Sunni Arab voters in Iraq's national elections Sunday, former Iraqi Governing Council member, Adnan Pachachi, says he has initiated conciliatory talks with Sunni Arab groups that did not take part in the balloting. The secular Sunni Arab elder statesman worries that the credibility of the elected national assembly and the constitution it drafts may be greatly diminished without Sunni-Arab participation.

Adnan Pachachi, who was only one of a handful of Sunni-Arab candidates in Sunday's race, has spent the past several days reaching out to leaders of Sunni-led opposition groups, who boycotted national elections.

Prior to the balloting, the octogenarian politician did much the same thing, calling for a delay in the elections while trying to bring Sunnis on board.

Many Sunni Arabs, including militants at the core of Iraq's raging insurgency, opposed the polls. Some refused the notion of holding elections while foreign troops still controlled many parts of Iraq. Others said the insurgency made voting so dangerous Sunnis would never be able to vote in numbers sufficient to have an impact at the polls.

Others condemned the balloting as an effort to hand power over to the country's Shi'ites and Kurds. The two groups make up nearly 80 percent of the country's population and had suffered under decades of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-Arab rule.

But with Sunday's elections being hailed worldwide as a success, Mr. Pachachi says most Sunni groups are now showing a genuine desire to be included in the country's post-election political process.

"They want very much to take part in writing the constitution," said Adnan Pachachi. "They say that very openly."

The elections will produce a 275-member assembly, which will select a new interim government and draft Iraq's constitution. Mr. Pachachi says he is hoping the talks he has initiated with Sunni leaders will lead to an agreement, which can be incorporated into the constitution.

"If this succeeds, I think then we can reasonably expect a constitution that will be acceptable and would be endorsed by the Iraqi people in the referendum next October," he said. "And this will pave the way for an inclusive election in which all segments of Iraqi society can take part."

A national referendum on the constitution is to take place by October 15 and elections to choose a permanent government are to be held in December.

A rival of Mr. Pachachi, Sunni-Arab politician Mishan al-Jabouri, insists Sunnis should not worry about being excluded from the political process and simply wait until October 15.

Under the interim constitution, if two-thirds of the people in three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against the draft constitution, a new assembly must be elected and a new constitution drafted.

Since Sunni Arabs are dominant in at least three provinces, Mr. Jabouri says this, in effect, gives the Sunni people veto power.

"We can say 'no' for the constitution," said Mishan al-Jabouri. "That means we have to go back to elections. This is a veto to give the people hope. This is the message we try to tell our people."

But Sunni Arab participation in any elected government is unlikely by itself to end violence in the country, as terrorists have vowed to fight democracy.