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RE: Time for an Exodus?
Iraqi Official Says He Received Call From Resistance Leader
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By EDWARD WONG
Published: November 25, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 25 - A senior aide to Iraq's president said today that some insurgent groups had contacted him to discuss joining in the American-backed political process.
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Forum: The Transition in Iraq
The official, Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samarraie, the security adviser to President Jalal Talabani, said he had received calls over the past few days from people claiming to represent bands of guerrillas. The general declined to name the groups or say how many had called. He also declined to discuss any demands that the groups might have communicated.
"I received phone calls from different movements, different groups, some claiming they represent the resistance," he said. "They said they're ready to participate in the political process."
The general added that the people who had called him were Islamists and former Baath Party members, but that none appeared to be loyal to Saddam Hussein. Many of the groups that the callers claimed to represent, he said, are based in the restive province of Anbar, the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency.
General Samarraie said that he had made no arrangements for any meetings, and that he was awaiting further calls. "I think these people represent important groups," he said.
Because of the sketchy details provided by the general, it was difficult to assess the significance of the calls. In the last year, some politicians have announced that they were in touch with various insurgent groups, only to have serious doubts later raised about the importance and legitimacy of those contacts.
One notable example involved Aiham al-Samarraie, the former electricity minister, who asserted months ago that he was talking to several insurgent groups. The groups he named then posted statements on Web sites calling Mr. Samarraie a liar and demanding that he be killed. Mr. Samarraie, who is running for Parliament in the Dec. 15 elections, still says he has ties to certain factions in the insurgency.
At a conference in Cairo last weekend, Mr. Talabani said he would be open to speaking with insurgent groups, as long as they renounced violence.
General Samarraie first made his comments to The Associated Press earlier today, then confirmed the remarks this evening when reached by telephone.
President Talabani is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, each of which has a sizable militia. The two parties have joined together to run in the elections as a large bloc, the Kurdistan Alliance.
The main issue for the Kurds in the new Iraq is that of autonomy - they want to have as little to do with the Arab part of Iraq as possible, and are fighting to maintain the state of semi-independence in the north that they have enjoyed since 1991, when the United States established a no-fly zone over that region in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war.
At the Cairo conference, organized by the Arab League, Shiite Arab leaders from Iraq reached a symbolic agreement with Sunni Arab leaders to ask Washington Americans for a timetable on the withdrawal of American troops, dependent certain criteria being met.
In violence around the country, Police officials said today that six Iraqis, four of them soldiers, were killed by gunmen Thursday night near the predominantly Sunni Arab town of Hawija, west of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The residents of Hawija have been staunchly opposed to the American presence in Iraq and to the new government. Many fear Kurds will take control of Kirkuk and the vast oil fields in the region.
The attack began at 9:55 p.m., when gunmen opened fire on an Iraqi Army convoy, the officials said. In addition to the four soldiers, two civilian bystanders were reported killed.
The American military said a soldier died in a tank accident south of Baghdad on Thursday. At least 2,105 American troops have died in the war.
Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and an Iraqi employee contributed reporting from Kirkuk.