- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan — Even before the Iraq Study Group released its report last week, Iraq’s leaders had reversed their opposition to regional and international conferences to discuss ways to stem the violence.

U.S. officials declined to comment, but Arab politicians and officials said representatives of the United States and of Iraqi insurgents have met here in recent months.

Iraq’s ambassador to Jordan, Saad al-Hayani, confirmed that the meetings had taken place at his embassy and that a pair of U.S. senators had been among those present for some of the talks.

“The role of the ambassador is to get in touch with all sides. Two large meetings have happened here in the embassy,” Mr. al-Hayani said. “The meetings were successful and necessary and beneficial.”

Mr. al-Hayani said U.S. officials also have met with representatives of the Sunni-led insurgency in Baghdad and Cyprus.

The Iraq Study Group recommended reintegrating qualified members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, who are thought to form the backbone of the insurgency, into the Iraqi government. Mr. al-Hayani said he hopes militants can be persuaded to take part in the political process but that insurgent demands of a U.S. withdrawal and the dismissal of the current Iraqi government provided little common ground for negotiation.

Moayed abu Subieh, a Jordanian journalist who has written about such meetings and has interviewed militant representatives present, said that negotiations may be the only way to preserve the U.S.-backed government in Iraq.

“There were supposed to be negotiations on November 9 after the U.S. elections, but they were postponed after the failure of the Republicans,” Mr. abu Subieh said.

Mr. Bush subsequently flew to Amman for a quick summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and expressed renewed support for the Iraqi government.

Mr. abu Subieh warned, however, that stronger U.S. support for Mr. al-Maliki and his government was likely to strengthen those fighting for a U.S. withdrawal. He added that the meetings involved only part of what is a multifaceted resistance, though he said he thinks members of Saddam’s ousted government and army make up the most organized factions and the majority of the insurgency.

“As far as we know, America has not spoken with any of the really active resistance,” said Bashar Al-Faili, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni political party.

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