At least 25 people were killed and 20 wounded in a suicide car bombing targeting a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.
Tuesday’s attack on a municipal building of Abu Ghraib in western Baghdad came as tribal leaders were attending the conference, the official said. The bombing came three days after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki rallied sheikhs of the nation’s tribes to participate in Iraq’s government. It was the latest official effort to further reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and tribes of different sects and bring some former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party into the political fold. Addressing conference members for sheikhs of Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen tribes in Iraq, al-Maliki said as violence subsides, all Iraqis should embrace change. “The security in Iraq has settled down at level that allowed leaders of tribes to come from everywhere,” said al-Maliki. “It is a reconciliation message for those who boycotted Iraq, because of the (sectarian) strife, they returned home now and we welcome them,” he said. After the invasion, the U.S.-led coalition decided to purge Iraqi institutions of Baathists, most of whom were Sunni Arabs.
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But al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government has since softened the government’s stance toward their participation. The prime minister has said he will pardon Baath party members who have not been linked to any serious crimes, and on Saturday he reaffirmed that commitment. Al-Maliki, who is Shiite, has been criticized in the past by minority groups for not fairly representing Iraqi’s ethnic groups. Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said he was reticent about al-Maliki’s intentions. “I believe al-Maliki is using the national reconciliation for his elections campaign by the end of 2009,” said Othman. “There is not official format or plan for the national reconciliation although we all welcome this step.” “I believe all the Kurds welcome national reconcilation in Iraq, but it should be based on a law or a plan that all political parties agreed,” he said.