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Iraqi leader's proposal targets sectarian violence

Seeks Shi'ite, Sunni input on security forces

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's prime minister announced a plan yesterday aimed at ending the deepening crisis between Shi'ite and Sunni parties in his government and uniting them behind the drive to stop sectarian killings that have bloodied the country for months.

The four-point plan, which emerged after talks between both sides, aims to resolve disputes by giving every party a voice in how security forces operate against violence on a neighborhood by neighborhood level.

Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad district -- made up of representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders, and security officials -- to consult on security efforts. A Sunni representative, for example, could raise a complaint if he thinks police are not pursuing a Shi'ite militia after an attack. A central committee, also made up of all the parties, will coordinate with the armed forces.

``We have taken the decision to end sectarian hatred once and for all," Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki told reporters. ``We have vowed before Almighty God to stop the bloodshed."

In a possible boost to the effort to rein in the violence, a radical cleric who heads one of the most powerful Shi'ite militias, Moqtada al-Sadr, has ordered his followers to put aside their weapons temporarily, a Sadr spokesman said.

Maliki announced his plan hours after gunmen in military-style uniforms abducted 14 computer shop employees in a bold, midday attack at the Technical University in downtown Baghdad, the second mass kidnapping in as many days.

The bodies of seven of 24 captives seized Sunday were found dumped in southern Baghdad. Sunni politicians blamed Shi'ite militias for both mass kidnappings and demanded the government take action.

More than 50 bodies -- most bound and many of them showing signs of torture -- were found in Baghdad alone on Sunday, apparent victims of sectarian killings, police said.

Maliki is under pressure to stop the violence, which has killed thousands since February. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned this week that Maliki must make progress within the next two months to avert a crisis.

But Maliki's administration has been plagued by growing mistrust between its Shi'ite and Sunni members, who each accuse the other of fueling the bloodshed.

Maliki announced a 24-point reconciliation plan when he took office in May, which laid down ways to tackle violence -- including an amnesty for militants who put down their weapons . So far, the plan has done little to stem the daily killings.

Sunnis accuse the Shi'ite-led security forces of turning a blind eye to killing of Sunnis by Shi'ite militias -- some of which are linked to parties in the government. Sunnis have accused Maliki, a Shi'ite, of being hesitant to crack down on the militias.

Shi'ites, meanwhile, accused Sunni parties of links to terrorists after a bodyguard of a Sunni party leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, was arrested by US forces on Friday and accused of plotting Al Qaeda bombings. Some Shi'ite politicians demanded a government reshuffle to push out Sunni parties.

The local committees aim to resolve these disputes.

``We will spare no efforts to succeed in this great initiative which we agreed on today to stop the violence and killings in Baghdad and in all Iraq," Dulaimi said at a news conference with Maliki. The two men signed an agreement with other Sunni and Shi'ite politicians on the four-point plan.

In addition to the local and central committees, the plan calls for establishment of a media committee and a monthly review of progress, Maliki said.

However, the new plan does not directly tackle the issue of cracking down on Shi'ite militias, a step Sunnis demand but many Shi'ites oppose.

In theory, the committees would give Sunnis a venue to press security forces to take action against militias. But Shi'ites on the committee would have an equal chance to try to prevent action.

The top parties are to meet today to work out the details about the the committees , but divisions already were showing . Shi'ite parties want the new plan to be focused on ``terrorism," which would suggest insurgents, while Sunnis want it to address ``violence," which would include Shi'ite militias.

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