Iraq government to begin disarming militias

Gulf News, Sept 26 – A major Sunni group is holding talks with the Iraqi government over disarming of the Shiite militia belonging to Moqtada Al Sadr, Iraqi political sources said.

Adnan Al Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front who is holding the talks with the government, has also called for the government to resign if it fails to handle the issue of disarming Shiite militias, like the Mehdi Army, which is led by Al Sadr.

Sunni locations in Baghdad, such as Saydiya, Hurriya and Doura, are witnessing attacks by men in black clothes, believed to be members of the Mehdi Army.

Al Dulaimi, in direct contact with the Americans, asked them to disperse a special military force in Hurriya to put an end to the Mehdi Army attacks.

Sources in the Iraqi Accordance Front are negotiating with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to chalk out procedures to disarm militias and deter the Mehdi Army in Baghdad.

"Al Maliki is ready to take additional … procedures against the Mehdi Army. But apparently is under pressure from religious Shiite leaders to stop …taking serious measures in this respect," said a source in the Front.

The same sources told Gulf News there is an Iraqi-American military plan to tackle the Mehdi Army, which attacks Sunni locations, carries out abductions, tortures and killing.

However, Al Maliki seems reluctant to implement the plan. Also, the contacts between the Iraqi Accordance Front and the Shiite coalition headed by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim has reached a dead end, after the Shiite coalition and Al Sadr refused to admit the responsibility of some of their members in killing tens of Iraqis daily.

"Al Maliki wants to conduct a political dialogue with the Al Sadr group. He wants to be backed by religious Shiite leaders to resolve the Mehdi dossier peacefully," Abbas Al Bayati, a Member of Parliament, told Gulf News.

However, sources in Meshaan Al Jubouri’s group, a Sunni Member in Parliament, told Gulf News Al Maliki’s plans to rid the Ministry of Interior of Al Sadr elements is greatly criticised by religious leaders in Najaf and Karbala.

The criticism comes at a time when Al Maliki expressed willingness to return high ranking Iraqi officers from the Saddam era to the Ministries of Interior and Defence. Such a stand has created a crisis between Al Maliki and his political and religious partners.

Amer Al Hassani, a leader of the Al Sadr movement, accused the Front of pushing the Americans towards an open war against the Mehdi Army, which is accused of leading death squads in Baghdad.

During the last few days, Shiite coalition parties stepped up their criticism of a UN report, which revealed the involvement of militia members in leading death squads.