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Iraqi Tribal Leaders Gather for Unity Conference

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hosted the war-torn nation's various tribal factions at a national unity conference Saturday in Baghdad.

Mr. Maliki told the hundreds of tribal leaders that national unity is the key to "liberating" Iraq from the presence of foreign forces and terrorists.

The prime minister stressed there are no differences between Iraqis, regardless if they are Sunni, Shi'ite or Christian.

In a separate development Saturday, officials in Iraq say that a Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament - kidnapped nearly two months ago - has been released by her captors.

Tayseer al-Mashhadani was taken July 1 along with seven of her bodyguards as her convoy passed through a Shi'ite neighborhood in northern Baghdad. She is a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest parliamentary bloc of the Sunni minority community.

Iraq has been plagued by a wave of sectarian violence between Shi'ites and Sunnis since the February bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Samarra. Nearly 3,500 Iraqi civilians were killed in July, the highest civilian death toll since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

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