May the Sunnis and Shiites make Cheney eat his words:
Major Iraqi Blocs Boycott Reconciliation Gathering
By Joshua Partlow and Naseer Nouri | Washington Post Foreign Service | Wednesday, March 19, 2008; Page A11
BAGHDAD, March 18 -- A conference intended to bring together Iraq's rival sectarian groups foundered Tuesday when the leading Sunni political bloc boycotted the event and reiterated its demands for greater participation in the Shiite-led government.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opened the conference here in the Green Zone, the fortified seat of government and the U.S. diplomatic mission, by saying that reconciliation among rival factions is the "only rescue boat and the best solution to build a federal democratic Iraq."
"We seriously regret that some stand watching and others try to bring down the political process and obstruct the work of the government," said Maliki, who is Shiite. "At a time when their patriotic duty requires them to help and support the government."
National reconciliation here has always been primarily about bringing Shiites and Sunnis into closer political partnership, a chief reason the Bush administration increased U.S. troop levels last year. But the boycott of the Baghdad conference by the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni political bloc, illustrated how divided the two groups remain.
The walkout came a day after Vice President Cheney, on a visit to Baghdad, said the improvement in Iraq's security and political situation was "phenomenal" and "remarkable." But Sunni leaders warned Tuesday that reconciliation remained elusive.
"We are used to the prime minister speaking in a beautiful way about reconciliation and brotherhood. That's all well, but on the ground there are a lot of obstacles he has put in the way of reconciliation," said Alaa Makki, a Sunni parliament member with the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Accordance Front.