Iraqi rebels demand US troop pullout to lay down arms: MP

Saghir, often a target of Sunni insurgents, refused to accept the presence of armed groups in the political process.

"We consider that the so-called resistance does not exist and if it had existed it would have shown us its face and its leaders would have declared and revealed their programme by now," he told AFP.

"We do not have to negotiate with people who do not have a program and nobody in the government has the right to speak with the assassins of the Iraqi people."

He said a number of tribal chiefs and leaders of the restive western Sunni Al-Anbar province had expressed a desire to join the political process, but some faced opposition from Sunni extremists.

"There were fights yesterday (Monday) between extremists and those citizens who favour reconciliation in Amiriyat al-Fallujah," near the former rebel bastion town of Fallujah, he said.

He however expressed optimism that the reconciliation plan would succeed in the long run, saying: Maliki’s plan is "not a magic wand, it needs time and patience to succeed."

The leader of Sunni Islamic Party, Iyad al-Samarrai, expressed readiness to act as intermediary between the government and the armed groups.

"We are ready to facilitate the dialogues even if they are held directly," he said," adding more and more people from "the west of Iraq and particularly in the province of Al-Anbar were in favour of reconciliation."

But the plan was being hindered due to the precarious security situation in the province which was once the stronghold of Al-Qaeda.

After Maliki presented his plan to parliament Sunday, many Sunni leaders welcomed the proposals, but urged the government to crackdown on militias associated with various Shiite political parties.

They blame the militias for large-scale killing of Sunni Arabs in the ongoing sectarian conflict.