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Iraq's Maliki Rejects Sunni Ministers' Resignations

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to accept the resignations of six Sunni Arab cabinet ministers who quit last week.

Mr. Maliki announced the decision after he met Sunday with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Shi'ite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Iraq's Sunni vice president did not take part.

The leaders said they hope the six ministers from the largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, the Accordance Front, change their mind and return to the government.

A spokesman for the Accordance Front, Rafaa al-Issawi, said the Shi'ite-led government failed to meet the bloc's demands to deal with Shi'ite militias and reform how raids and arrests are conducted.

Mr. Talabani says he will meet next week with Mr. Maliki, the Shi'ite and Sunni vice presidents and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani for talks on resolving the political crisis.

In Washington, the Bush administration downplayed the significance of the Sunni bloc's withdrawal.

The Accordance Front has been boycotting cabinet meetings since June to protest legal proceedings against Culture Minister Asad al-Hashimi, who is accused of arranging to have another politician killed.

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