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Iraq's Sunni VP Urges Integration of Sunni Militiamen


Iraq's Sunni vice president is urging the country's Shi'ite-led government to integrate U.S.-allied Sunni militiamen into the security forces.

Tareq Al-Hashemi warned Monday that if the government does not assimilate the Sunni militias, Iraq risks reversing its recent improvements in security.

The U.S. military has recruited tens of thousands of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, to fight against al Qaida and credits them with reducing violence in Iraq.

But Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is wary of cooperating with Sunni militiamen it once regarded as enemies.

In another development, Vice President Hashemi signed an agreement Monday with Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to boost cooperation between their parties.

The agreement followed talks between the three leaders in the northern Iraqi town of Dokan.

Mr. Talabani says the agreement is aimed at helping to form a national unity government. He did not elaborate.

Hashemi's Sunni political bloc, the Iraqi Islamic Party, withdrew from the cabinet of Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in August.

In other news, Iraqi police say gunmen stopped a bus at a fake checkpoint in the northern province of Diyala Monday and kidnapped 14 passengers, including women and children.

Also, the U.S. military says U.S. helicopters attacked and killed five suspected al-Qaida militants Sunday as they crossed the Tigris River, southeast of Baghdad.

And, Georgia's defense ministry says a Georgian soldier was killed last Friday in a road accident in the eastern Iraqi city of Kut.

Ansar al-Islam is a radical Islamic group based in Iraq.

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