Sunnis return to parliament as Negroponte asks for political progress

BAGHDAD — Sunni parliament members agreed to return to the legislative assembly after a brief boycott ended Sunday night, as a top U.S. official warned of future violence if more political reconciliation is not made.

The parliamentary boycott, which began Saturday and pitted Sunnis against Shiites following what was called the house arrest of a leading Sunni politician, subsided as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte rapped up his six-day tour of Iraq.

"The security surge has delivered significant results," Negroponte told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad. "Now progress on political reconciliation, including key national legislation as well as economic advances, is needed to consolidate the gains. If progress is not made on these fronts we risk falling back toward the more violent habits of the past."

The National Security Advisor Mowaffak al Rubaie along with others in parliament, escorted Adnan al Dulaimi, a leading member of the Iraqi Accordance Front to the Al Rasheed hotel, across from the parliament after at least two days of confinement at his home.

The Sunni bloc planned to return to the parliament Monday, said Thafir al Ani, a Sunni lawmaker from the Iraqi Accordance Front.

Members of the Iraqi Accordance Front said Dulaimi had been placed under house arrest. In contrast, other officials and the U.S. military said it had been done for his own protection after about 40 members of his staff, including security guards and his son, were detained in relation to car bombings and killings near his home in the Sunni Adil district of Baghdad.

Over the past year the security guards of Sunni leaders have been accused of turning on them.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a tribal leader in Anbar province credited with founding the awakening movement that fought al Qaida in Anbar province, was targeted and killed by his own bodyguard. An assassination attempt on Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Salam al Zobaie also was blamed on one of his bodyguards.

While Sunnis plan to return to parliament Monday so far there has been little done toward national reconciliation.

The Justice and Accountability Law, a law to soften the deBaathification law that banned tens of thousands of members of Saddam's government from serving in the new Iraqi government, was met with jeers, chants of "No! No! to Baathists!" and a walk-out by political members from Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr's party.

On Saturday the law was read again after the 44 members of the Iraqi Accordance front had left the hall in protest over the confinement of Dulaimi and his daughter.

According to the U.S. military, about 40 members of his staff and security guards were detained in connection with the murder of a "Concerned Local Citizen" — a group of mostly Sunni guards hired by the U.S.

The dead man was killed a block from Dulaimi's house and a car matching the description of the getaway vehicle was left in the adjacent street and two men were apparently hiding in Dulaimi's compound, a U.S. military statement said.

In that same investigation the U.S. military found a wired car bomb outside Dulaimi's compound and one of the guards at Dulaimi's compound had the key to the vehicle. After a controlled detonation of the car bomb, another explosion injured five U.S. soldiers and a civilian. Iraqi Security forces detained the men and the matter is still under investigation.

For months members of the government and parliament have been campaigning to lift al Dulaimi's governmental immunity.

"It is nothing related to Shiite or Sunni," Sadiq al Rikabi, advisor to the Prime Minister said. "They (Iraqi Accordance Front) don't like to admit that one of there leaders is involved in terrorist activities."

Also last week, the U.S. military amended the number of "Concerned Local Citizens," a program to use local residents, mostly Sunnis, to watch over their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the military revised its estimate of the number of Concerned Local Citizens, cutting the level from 77,542 to 60,321. The U.S. military has about 51,190 under contract for $300 a month.

McClatchy Special Correspondent Hussein Kadhim contributed to this report.