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Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 11:59 UK

Sunni bloc rejoins Iraqi cabinet

Iraqi lawmakers. File photo
The agreement should speed up parliamentary business

The main Sunni Muslim bloc in Iraq has rejoined the Shia-led government, in what correspondents called an important step for national reconciliation.

The return of six ministers from the Accordance Front to the cabinet was approved by lawmakers.

The Sunni bloc withdrew almost a year ago following a row over power-sharing.

A spokesman for the Accord Front said its return was "a real step forward for political reform" in the predominantly Shia country.

The spokesman, Salim al-Joubouri, added that the bloc's approved candidates would attend the next cabinet meeting.

Most of them are new faces nominated by the party.

Their return is especially significant ahead of provincial elections that are expected later this year, the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says.

Crackdown on militants

The move is also a sign of changed and considerably improved times, our correspondent says.

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The Accord Front's main reason for leaving the cabinet last August was that the government and security apparatus were dominated by Shia factions with an allegedly sectarian agenda.

The main thrust of security operations at that time was against Sunni-based insurgents, and many thousands of Sunnis were detained, our correspondent says.

But in February, many prisoners were freed under a new amnesty law.

This spring, Iraqi security forces, along with American troops, also launched a concerted crackdown on the Shia militias, especially Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army.

A number of Sunni Arab states have also been persuaded to revive their diplomatic presence and activities in Baghdad - another demand of the Iraqi Sunnis, our correspondent says.

On Saturday, Iraqi parliament also voted another four ministers to replace those from Moqtada Sadr's political bloc.


SEE ALSO
Iraq Sunnis return to parliament
19 Jul 07 |  Middle East

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