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Iraqi Sunni Politician Denounces Proposed Anti-Baathist Laws

A top Sunni Arab politician in Iraq has denounced laws barring former Baath party supporters of ousted President Saddam Hussein from government jobs, saying the laws amount to "racism."

Former Deputy Prime Minister Mutlaq al-Jabouri speaks for the Accordance Front, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc, which Monday ended a two-day boycott of parliament.

Monday's debate focused on a U.S.-backed draft bill to ease curbs placed on former Baathists after the 2003 U.S. invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Al-Jabouri contended that the purge of Baathists was designed to punish Sunnis, not just uproot the former ruling party. As he put it, "democracy can not live alongside sectarianism and racism."

Iraqi Shi'ites who were persecuted under Saddam Hussein's rule oppose the draft law to ease curbs on former Baathists.

The U.S. Congress considers the bill a key benchmark for measuring progress toward political reconciliation in Iraq.

Accordance Front lawmakers had walked out of parliament Saturday to protest what they called the house arrest of front leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi.

Iraqi police surrounded Dulaimi's home Friday after arresting his son and bodyguards on suspicion of hiding car bombs near the politician's office.

The front called off the boycot Sunday after Dulaimi was allowed to move to a hotel near parliament in Baghdad's heavily guarded "Green Zone."

In other news, unidentified gunmen have killed Sheikh Attallah Iskandar, a member of a local council, along with his driver in a drive-by shooting near Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.