- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government today, undermining efforts to seek reconciliation among the country’s rival factions, and two bombing attacks in Baghdad killed at least 67 persons.

In one attack, 50 persons were killed and 60 wounded when a suicide attacker exploded a fuel truck near a gas station in western Baghdad. Another 17 died in a separate car-bomb attack in central Baghdad.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of four American soldiers, three of whom were killed by a sophisticated armor-piercing bomb. Britain also announced the death of one of its soldiers by a roadside bomb in Basra.

Rafaa al-Issawi, a leading member of the Sunni Accordance Front, said at a news conference that the bloc’s six Cabinet ministers would submit their resignations later today.

Mr. al-Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government followed what he called Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to respond to the Accordance Front. It gave him seven days to meet its demands, and the ultimatum expired today.

Among the front’s demands were a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

“The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand, and has slammed shut the door to any meaningful reforms necessary for saving Iraq,” Mr. al-Issawi said.

“We had hoped that the government would respond to these demands or at least acknowledge the failure of its policies, which led Iraq to a level of misery it had not seen in modern history. But its stand did not surprise us at all,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament’s 275 seats. Its withdrawal from the 14-month-old government is the second such action by a faction of Mr. al-Maliki’s “national unity” coalition.

Five Cabinet ministers loyal to militant Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government in April to protest Mr. al-Maliki’s reluctance to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

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