Iraqi Shi'ite, Sunni political leaders call for national unity

by Reuters
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 20:41 GMT

(Adds quotes, background)

BAGHDAD, June 17 (Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite and Sunni political leaders made a joint call for national unity on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting called after a week of sectarian violence that saw Sunni militants seize northern cities.

The leaders, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, and Sunni Usama al-Nujaifi, the last speaker of parliament which dissolved this month, stood apart and listened as Maliki's predecessor Ibrahim al-Jafaari called for "defending the state and protecting its sovereignty and dignity."

"No terrorist powers represent any sect or religion," Jafaari said in the televised address, which included a broad promise of "reviewing the previous course".

The leaders also called for avoiding sectarian grievances and forbade non-state actors from carrying weapons.

Nujaifi and Maliki did not speak to each other after the speech, and only a few of the politicians exchanged words before walking away. In a similar meeting a year ago, Nujaifi and Maliki were shown embracing.

At the height of sectarian violence in 2007, Iraqi political leaders issued a call for political unity which had little effect. (Reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.