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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 18:45 GMT
Shia chief's promise to Sunnis
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
Hakim says he wants to draw Sunnis into the political fold
Iraq's Sunni Muslims will hold seats in the next government, irrespective of how their parties fare in the polls, a Shia political leader has said.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of a Shia-led coalition widely tipped to win the vote, said the "participation of all" is essential for the new government.

He said Sunnis must have a hand in drafting a new constitution.

Violence and discontent among Iraq's Sunnis have prompted calls for the polls to be postponed or boycotted.

Leading Sunni parties have withdrawn from the polls, while US troops battle to contain an uprising among their constituents in central Iraq.

Insurgents in the area have meanwhile made good on threats to punish anyone involved in the polls, killing and intimidating several electoral workers.

'Consolidate national unity'

Earlier in the week, Mr Hakim had urged Sunnis to take part in the polls.

He told AFP news agency "we will insist that they [the Sunnis] be represented in government, that they have posts and that they have a voice in drafting the constitution and responsibility in the government".

Iraq's next government is set to frame a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum later in the year.

Mr Hakim heads the Unified Iraqi Alliance, a group of parties representing much of Iraq's 15m-strong Shia community.

He is also head of Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), an office he assumed after his brother, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, was killed in a massive suicide bomb attack on the holy city of Najaf in 2003.

Mr Hakim himself escaped unhurt after a suicide bomber blew up a car outside his Baghdad home late last month.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Sunni Kurd, has meanwhile said no single party will have a monopoly of power after the elections.

He told Reuters: "This election will consolidate national unity.

"For a year or more we have heard that Iraq was going to disintegrate and indulge in civil war... None of that has happened," he said.

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