Iraq Sunni party drafts new political principles

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BAGHDAD, Sep 26 (Reuters) The largest Sunni Arab party in Iraq unveiled a set of political principles today that it said would hopefully unite the country's feuding politicians.

Senior officials in the Iraqi Islamic Party told a news conference that copies of the platform, called ''The Iraqi National Compact'', would be given to all political parties as well as senior clerics and neighbouring countries.

The deep sectarian divide in Iraq has hobbled decision making and slowed progress on key laws that Washington wants passed to boost reconciliation between warring majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been hit by the defection of a dozen Shi'ite and Sunni Arab ministers, while parliament has also had to cope with boycotts.

Vice president and leader of the Islamic Party, Tareq al-Hashemi, said the 25 principles aimed to remove deep mistrust among politicians.

''The true reason behind the difference of opinion originates in mutual fear, the lack of confidence and distrust not only between those involved in the political process and those outside of it, but primarily between those parties in the process,'' Hashemi said.

The compact's broad principles cover issues such as ending sectarianism, ensuring weapons are only in the hands of the state, guaranteeing that power is transferred through peaceful, democratic methods and promoting human rights.

The Islamic Party is part of the Sunni Accordance Front, which pulled out of the government early last month, accusing Maliki of ignoring their demands, which included a greater say in security affairs and the release of detainees.

Hashemi suggested international and regional bodies such as the United Nations or the Arab League could act as guarantors of the 25 principles, although he did not elaborate.

Several initiatives in the past two years to provide broad political and religious agreements have failed to produce effective results on the ground.

REUTERS JK RN1647

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