Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sunni announces a political group for Iraqi insurgents

Philadelphia Inquirer | 06/30/2005 | Sunni announces a political group for Iraqi insurgents:

It was another effort to draw the faction into the political process. U.S. officials had confirmed negotiating with rebels.

By Patrick Quinn

Associated Press

BAGHDAD - A Sunni Arab politician who brokered secret talks between American officials and insurgents said yesterday that he had formed a group to give political voice to Iraqi fighters, and demanded a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

The announcement by Ayham al-Samarie marked another effort to draw disenfranchised Sunnis into the political process. Samarie, a former cabinet member and a dual Iraq-U.S. citizen, is thought to have strong tribal links among Sunni Muslims, who are are thought to make up the backbone of an insurgency.

American officials including Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld had confirmed that the United States had negotiated with the insurgents.

On the political front, Samarie said at a news conference at his home in Baghdad that his new group would be called the National Council for Unity and Construction of Iraq. He said it would represent "resistance" fighters who have not carried out attacks against civilians.

Nearly all car bomb and suicide attacks carried out against Iraqis are thought to be the work of Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

At least one prominent Shiite legislator dismissed Samarie's effort.

"The general terrorist program is to attack electricity plants, water and oil pipelines, mosques, churches and to target the innocents, police and the army," Saad Jawad Qandil said. "These are terrorist acts, and cannot be represented as acts of resistance."

The insurgents represented by Samarie want U.S. troops to leave Iraq in one to three years and military campaigns against Iraqi cities and towns to end, Samarie said. They will not put down their arms unless all their goals are met, he added.

A British newspaper this week reported that Samarie brokered two recent meetings between U.S. officials and a group of rebels. Samarie confirmed the talks but would not give details. He was electricity minister in the interim government and comes from Samarra, an insurgent stronghold 60 miles north of Baghdad.

In military operations, meanwhile, more than 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops seeking to quash insurgents met little resistance as they swept through the city of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, Marine Capt. Jeffrey Pool said.

The troops were moving through communities along the Euphrates River."

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