Friday, October 06, 2006

Iraqi PM calls for elimination of all Militias..

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 6, 2006 By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA Associated Press Writer -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Political parties must either get rid of their militias or get out of politics, Iraq's prime minister said Thursday, in his toughest warning yet to groups blamed for the country's wave of sectarian violence.Ahead of talks with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on how to stop the wave of Shiite-Sunni killings in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told The Associated Press he was "optimistic" a political solution will be found to persuade militias to dissolve.But once an agreement is reached, "the political solution must be obligatory, one that all parties adhere to," he said. "The presence of parties with militias in the government is not acceptable." "The political parties must obey the decisions of the government or else get out of the political process. I don't believe there is any power that wants to leave the political process," he said, speaking during an "iftar" dinner, the meal that ends the daily Ramadan fast.About three dozen people attended the special iftar, held amid intense security in a dining room in the compound of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the largest party in the Shiite coalition that dominates the government. utside, hundreds of guards from al-Hakim's party _ Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq _ were deployed in the streets throughout the south Baghdad neighborhood, carrying automatic weapons. SCIRI is accused of running its own militia, the Badr Brigade, though the party says it has been dissolved. Among those present were al-Maliki's Cabinet, parliament members _ mainly from the Shiite coalition and a few Kurds and Sunnis _ and a few officials from the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein. They were served up with a feast of roast fish and meats with rice, followed by a wide spread of fruits and sweets and tea.Al-Maliki is under intensified pressure to find an end to the Shiite-Sunni violence that has killed thousands of people this year and has threatened to tear the country apart. The killings have continued despite the prime minister's repeated calls for them to dissolve.Several Shiite parties in al-Maliki's government have militias _ some of them blamed for grisly kidnapping-murders that nearly every day leave tortured and bound bodies of Sunnis dumped in neighborhoods of the capital.Shiites have argued that militias are needed to protect them against Sunni insurgents who have targeted their community with brutal attacks against mosques, markets and other public areas. Shiite leaders have accused Sunni parties in the government of links to the insurgency. U.S. and Iraqi commanders have also said that some militia fighters may no longer be under the control of the parties, carrying out killings on their own. Al-Maliki has frequently called for militias to be dissolved, insisting that weapons must only be in the hands of national security forces. But Sunni leaders have accused the government of balking at moving forcefully against Shiite militias because of their links to the government. This past week, the government has taken new steps to show it is serious in tackling sectarian violence.Iraqi authorities on Wednesday pulled a brigade of about 700 policemen out of service in its biggest move ever to uproot troops linked to death squads. The brigade is suspected of allowing gunmen to kidnap 24 workers from a frozen food factory in a district of Baghdad where the Shiite Mahdi Army militia is known to have considerable power. The bodies of seven workers were found in another Baghdad district hours later; the fate of the others is unknown.The suspended 8th Brigade has been ordered out of the field, and the U.S. military said they will undergo retraining while some members will be put under investigation.Al-Maliki underlined that only a political solution can bring a stop to the violence. "The dissolving of militias cannot just be a matter of force. It requires many means to reach the goal, persuading the militias to dissolve themselves. That is better," he said. "The dissolution of militias must be through the political powers." Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Thursday that an armed Shiite group has threatened to kill Palestinian refugees living in Baghdad if they do not leave Iraq within 72 hours.The New York-based group said it had obtained a leaflet from a group calling itself Al-Bayt Revenge Brigade Rapid Response Units that stated: "There is no place for Palestinians in the Iraq of Ali, Hassan, and Hussain." The names refer to three revered Shiite was no indication when the time period began. The leaflet, the rights group said, urged the Palestinian refugees to leave and "fight occupation in your own country."The rights groups said that over the past two years, Iraqi governments have done little to protect Palestinian refugees, and some officials have claimed that they are involved in terrorism and supporting the insurgency.

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