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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Iraq insurgents 'ready to disarm'
Ayham al-Samarie
Samarie says he began contacts with the groups five months ago
A prominent Iraqi Sunni politician has said that two insurgent groups are ready to disarm and begin talks with the Iraqi government.

Former minister Ayham al-Samarie said the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujahideen Army represented more than 50% of the resistance.

He said he began contacting the groups' political leaders five months ago.

The Islamic Army has claimed responsibility for several attacks and for taking hostages.

It was not possible to independently verify Mr Samarie's claim and the government would not comment on the matter, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The disclosure follows reports last week that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had opened indirect channels of communication with some militant groups, urging them to lay down their weapons.

Truce possible

Mr Samarie, who also discussed his contacts on the Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite network, told AP he had not met any of the field commanders of the two groups.

He said no deal had been made on disarming, but a truce of limited duration could be arranged to prove their goodwill after talks began.

"We told them that 'no-one knows what you want and you must come out to the political arena and make clear what is your agenda'," he said.

"They set no conditions and we agreed with them that the time had come for them to come out."

The Islamic Army claimed responsibility for gunning down a commercial helicopter, killing 11 passengers, north of Baghdad in April.

It later posted a video on the internet purporting to show the wreckage, and the shooting of the aircraft's only survivor.

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