World News

Iraq Sunni Arab bloc suspends government talks

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s main Sunni Arab political bloc said on Wednesday it had suspended talks to rejoin the Shi’ite-led government after a disagreement with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over a cabinet post.

“We have suspended negotiations with the government and pulled out our candidates,” said Salim al-Jibouri, spokesman for The Accordance Front. He said the decision was taken after Maliki objected to one of their proposed candidates for a cabinet position.

The Accordance Front pulled out of the national unity government last August, demanding the release of mainly Sunni Arab detainees in Iraq’s jails and calling for a greater say in security matters.

Persuading the bloc to rejoin the government has been a main aim of U.S. policy in Iraq and is seen as a crucial step towards reconciling Iraq’s warring factions. Sunni Arabs have little voice in a cabinet dominated by Shi’ites and Kurds.

Jibouri said the Accordance Front had drawn up a list of candidates for six cabinet posts to hand to the government for approval but Maliki had refused to allow them their nomination for the planning ministry.

The government has begun releasing Sunni prisoners under a new amnesty law, and Maliki won praise from Sunni Arab politicians after launching a crackdown on Shi’ite militias in Baghdad and the southern oil city of Basra.

Reporting by Wisam Mohammed; Writing by Tim Cocks