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Document governs Iraq reconciliation course, NYT reveals.

Byline: AE

BAGHDAD, July 6 (VOI) Co After years of vicious fighting among Iraq's fractious groups and some incomplete attempts at reconciliation, a ceremony here on Saturday marked a tiny step forward, at least symbolically, according to a report by the U.S. newspaper New York Times on Sunday.

The event was the result of several meetings in Helsinki, Finland, attended by a range of Iraqi politicians, as well as veterans from two other seemingly intractable conflicts, in Northern Ireland and South Africa, who have gone on to become political leaders.

The meetings, organized by a professor from the United States skilled in conflict resolution, included all of the main Iraqi political parties. They produced a document, unveiled Saturday, that outlined several principles for Iraq that the parties agreed upon, a first step in a process that experts in reconciliation say could take decades, writes journalist Campbell Robertson.

C[pounds sterling]Here you had them see how to deal with each other and there were a lot of people nodding, CyWe see what youCOre talking about,'" said the professor, Padraig O'Malley of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, at a briefing last week.

Despite the note of cautious optimism, there were signs of discord on Saturday. Several of those involved expressed frustration that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seemed more intent on declaring the talks a success than in continuing to discuss significant disagreements.

C[pounds sterling]There were many disagreements at the Helsinki conference and we thought this conference would be to discuss those points that we did not agree upon,C[yen] said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular Sunni politician. C[pounds sterling]When we came here, Maliki refused to talk about anything, just to have a meeting and a celebration.C[yen]

Maliki has been eager to depict himself as one of the countryCOs only leaders who has brought people together, although a number of other Iraqi leaders have begun to try to reach across sectarian and ethnic divides. Maliki was not involved directly in the Helsinki discussions, but members of his Dawa Party were among the signatories.

American leaders have consistently said that Iraq cannot truly move forward until its Sunnis, Shiites and other groups put aside their animosities, and until they take actions like passing an oil law aimed at spreading the countryCOs wealth more evenly.

The Helsinki agreement, which was hammered out over meetings in September and April, was signed by 33 politicians from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, Turkmen, Communist and other parties.

The document consists of 17 principles, as well as strategies to ensure compliance with those goals. The principles included a commitment to eventually limit arms possession to the government, respect for minority rights and opposition to international and regional influence in IraqCOs internal affairs.

The agreement also included a pledge to integrate the so-called Awakening Councils, and others who have fought against extremists, into state institutions.

Disagreements were clearly, if modestly, noted in the text of the document. Along with a principle declaring the unity of the Iraqi people came a note saying that several signatories had argued that the document should declare that Iraqis share an Arab and Islamic affiliation. That addition that would have been unacceptable to the Kurds, a different ethnic group.

More ominously, several qualifications were appended to a statement about the banning of armed militias, which have driven so much of IraqCOs violence.

As for what comes after this, OCOMalley said, that is up to the Iraqi leaders. His goal was to at least get them talking.

C[pounds sterling]They have to move to the next step, and that is setting up structures that can adequately monitor compliance with these principles,C[yen] he said.

Attending the meeting in Baghdad were Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and now deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, and Mac Maharaj, an associate of Nelson Mandela's who once commanded an armed resistance group in South Africa and later became that countryCOs minister of transport.

Copyright A[umlaut] 2008 Aswat al-Iraq

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Publication:Aswat al-Iraq (Erbil, Iraq)
Date:Jul 6, 2008
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