Kurds, Sunnis urge withdrawal of Shiite nominee

March 03, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A political conflict threatened to exacerbate Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divisions yesterday as Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders issued a letter demanding that the leading Shiite Muslim coalition withdraw its nomination of interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to head the next government.

The dispute came as a top Sunni politician narrowly escaped assassination and the government banned vehicle traffic in Baghdad during daytime today in an effort to halt continued violence.

"We had many conflicts with the past government, and for it to continue for the next four years is just unacceptable to us," said Faraj Haidary of the Kurdish Alliance, which has gotten other political blocs to sign off on the formal letter delivered yesterday.

Politicians with the lead United Iraqi Alliance, which holds a plurality of seats in the new parliament, warned that efforts to form a "national unity" government, a major goal of U.S. officials, might collapse if the Kurds and Sunnis don't back down.

"Jaafari is the nominee, and the UIA will not be provoked in this way," said Fadhil Shara, a political representative of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's office in Baghdad.

The political maneuvering threatened to further destabilize the country after a spasm of sectarian clashes that left hundreds dead over the past week. The violence continued yesterday, with police reporting that more than 30 people were killed in attacks across the country.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front party and among the country's top Sunni politicians, had just stepped out of his car to have a flat tire repaired when gunmen opened fire on his convoy in southern Baghdad yesterday afternoon. One security guard was killed and five others wounded in the attack, according to a statement released by the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party.

Also yesterday, the U.S. military said that an American soldier assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Multinational Force-West, was killed the previous day in the city of Fallujah.

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