Sunday, September 9, 2007

Voice of America: Sunni bloc rejoins Parliament

A promising development in Iraq's political reconciliation process.

The last political party boycotting Iraq's legislature has returned to the parliament. The move could help ease the political paralysis that has kept lawmakers from passing legislation crucial for national reconciliation in the troubled country. VOA's Jim Randle reports from northern Iraq.

A small Sunni Arab secular bloc returned to parliament, saying its political demands had been met. The 11 members of the National Dialogue Front also rejoined the 275-seat legislature so it can play a role in the debate over a key law regulating Iraq's oil industry.

The Front was the last of several boycotting groups to return to parliament, although the cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still missing many of its members due to walkouts and resignations.

To advance national reconciliation, Washington has been pressuring legislators to pass major laws aimed at drawing minority Sunni Arabs more firmly into the political process.

Parliament reconvened last Tuesday and is set to consider two key laws. One eases restrictions that kept former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party out of public office. That affects mostly Sunnis, and might ease some tensions between them and Shi'ites and Kurds, who make up most of the rest of the population.

Another piece of legislation outlines how revenue from the oil industry will be shared.