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Political Bloc of Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric al-Sadr Ends Boycott of Parliament

Members of Iraq's Parliament who support radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have ended a boycott of the legislature, after winning concessions from colleagues. But, as VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad, it was violence as usual on the country's streets.

Iraqi lawmakers say the political bloc of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ended its two-month boycott of the country's parliament.

One of 30 lawmakers loyal to al-Sadr said the group is returning to parliament immediately, and ministers will resume their work to serve the Iraqi people.

Al-Sadr's group has six of Iraq's 38 cabinet members.

The lawmakers rejoined the political process after parliament agreed to form a committee to consider their demand for a timetable for U.S. forces to leave Iraq.

The boycott ended as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government faces increasing pressure to crack down on sectarian violence, much of which is blamed on militia groups loyal to al-Sadr.

Mr. Maliki has been reluctant to move against al-Sadr's forces because they give him important political support.

Friday, U.S.-led forces detained a senior member of Sadr's group, accusing him of involvement in torture and kidnapping Iraqi civilians.

The Shi'ite bloc walked out of parliament seven weeks ago to protest a summit between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bush in Jordan.

Meanwhile, some of the additional U.S. troops intended to quell the bloodshed in Baghdad have arrived, including more than 3,000 from the 82nd Airborne Division.

But bloodshed continued in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

A witness said a bomb exploded in a minivan in a mostly Shi'ite area of central Baghdad, causing several deaths and injuries early Sunday. A second blast struck less than one hour later in the eastern part of the city, killing one person.

Saturday was one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces since the war began in 2003. Nineteen American service members died, including 12 who perished in a helicopter crash northeast of Baghdad.