x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Iraqiya to end parliament boycott

secular bloc which won the most seats in Iraq's March 2010 vote will end a boycott of parliament that it began in mid-December, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

BAGHDAD // A secular bloc which won the most seats in Iraq's March 2010 vote will end a boycott of parliament that it began in mid-December, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

"Iraqiya decided its deputies would return for parliament meetings," Maysoon Al Damluji told a news conference after a gathering of Iraqiya leaders and MPs.

The meeting was attended by Iraqiya leaders including the former premier Iyad Allawi, the deputy prime minister Saleh Al Mutlak, the parliament speaker Osama Al Nujaifi, and the finance minister, Rafa Al Essawi.

"The deputies of the Iraqiya list will return back to participate in the meetings of parliament next Tuesday. That's what we decided today," MP Aytab Al Duri told reporters.

The decision has not, however, been taken to end a boycott of cabinet sessions by Iraqiya ministers, according to Mr Duri, who said "that will be the next step."

A row erupted over a month ago between the Shiite-led government and the Iraqiya bloc as authorities charged Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi, a Sunni and Iraqiya member, with running a death squad.

Iraqiya began a boycott of parliament and cabinet to protest what it charged was Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's centralisation of power, and it has since called for Mr Maliki to respect a power-sharing deal or quit.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Mr Hashemi while Mr Maliki, a Shiite, has said his Sunni deputy Saleh Al Mutlak should be sacked after the latter said the premier was "worse than Saddam Hussein".

Mr Hashemi, who denies the charges, has since been holed up in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and Kurdish officials have so far declined to hand him over to Baghdad.

"Iraqiya decided to return back to the parliament to prepare the success of the national conference proposed by President (Jalal) Talabani, Mr Damluji said, referring to a proposed conference of parties aimed at resolving the crisis.

The bloc's MPs will participate in the vote on the budget, and the vote on an amnesty for people involved in violence, Mr Damluji said.

They will also try to find a solution to the issue of Mr Hashemi, and oppose Mr Maliki's request to dismiss Mr Mutlak, she said.

The White House said on Saturday that US Vice President Joe Biden had urged Iraqi leaders to resolve their differences ahead of the possible national conference.

Mr Biden called Mr Allawi on Friday and Mr Nujaifi on Saturday, and discussed "the importance of resolving outstanding issues through the political process."

The two Iraqi leaders, meanwhile, briefed Mr Biden on the deliberations under way "among all Iraqi political factions and parties in the run-up to a proposed national conference led by President Jalal Talabani," the White House said.