Voices of Iraq

Mass Grave Found in Diala Village in Iraq

A mass grave containing the remains of dozens of bodies was found in the northeast of Baaquba city, a local security source said on Saturday.

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Iraqi Parlaiment to Debate Renewal of UN Mandate

Editor's note: for background on the political fight surrounding the UN mandate, see "Iraqi Government to UN: 'Don't Extend Mandate for Bush's Occupation'" by Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari said on Sunday that a request for a Multi-National Force (MNF) troop extension in Iraq will be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for consideration.

"This will be the last request for troop extension…It will not be presented to the UN Security Council prior to its submission to the Iraqi parliament for deliberation," the minister said in statements to the press ahead of today's parliamentary session.

The parliament objected to repeated requests from the Iraqi government for the coalition forces to extend their presence in Iraq, without its prior consent.

Zibari, alongside Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, were invited to attend the parliamentary session on Sunday during which the principles of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and the United States will be declared.

According to Zibari, the declaration does not indicate an approval of the troop extension. "The request for troop extension will be submitted to the parliament later," the minister said, providing no further details of the date set for the deliberation.

Today's parliamentary session witnessed arguments between Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and Falah Shanshal, a legislator from the Sadrist bloc, or Iraqis loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and the chairman of the Debaathification Committee, during a debate on the draft accountability and justice law.

"The squabble began when Shanshal accused Mashhadani of collusion to read and vote over the draft accountability and justice law," a House source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) earlier today.

"The argument prompted the Sadrist parliamentarians to clap their hands on their seats to create chaos in an attempt to prevent the draft reading," said the source, adding Mashhadani, a Sunni, has "threatened to have them expelled from the session in accordance with the House's statute."

Since it was first announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in June 2007, the draft law has been facing fierce opposition and several reservations, mostly by the Sadrists, who occupy 30 out of a total 275 seats in parliament.

The draft is an alternative for the debaathification law, enacted by former U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer, who ruled Iraq after the fall of the former regime in April 2003.

The new law will allow thousands of Baathists to return to the political scene and receive their retirement rights.

Iran Proposes International Security Force to Take Over in Iraq

An Iranian proposal for troops from Iran, Syria and other Arab states to replace U.S. forces in Iraq was swiftly rejected and ridiculed yesterday at a high-level gathering of Iraq's neighbors and world powers, the U.S. newspaper The Washington Times said in a report on Sunday.

"As top diplomats from two dozen countries and international organizations took turns to discuss how to improve Iraq's security, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki suggested that a coalition from neighboring Arab states take over from U.S. forces, conference participants said."

"The Iranian delegation distinguished itself again today with the most extraordinary proposal," said David Satterfield, the State Department's top coordinator on Iraq, who accompanied U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the Istanbul meeting.

Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who also attended the session, said "Mr. Mottaki specifically identified Iran and Syria as potential troop contributors." Crocker called the Iranian idea a "fantasy" that should not be "dignified" with a response.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal offered the most forceful rejection of Mottaki's proposal, saying it would do nothing to stabilize Iraq, diplomats said. They noted that no one voiced support for the idea, and it was not clear whether it had at least Syria's backing.

Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, but they spent most of their time discussing the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, Satterfield said. He added that Rice warned Damascus to refrain from interfering in the vote.

Crocker said he expects to hold more talks on Iraq's security with Iranian diplomats in Baghdad in the near future, following two unproductive rounds earlier this year.

On the sidelines of yesterday's conference, Rice also acted as a mediator between Iraq and Turkey in search of a way to prevent attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, against Turkey.

During a three-way meeting, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, promised "a number of visible measures implemented on the ground to show our seriousness" about hunting down and arresting PKK leaders.

He did not rule out joint military action with Turkey against the PKK.

Satterfield said the United States wants the Iraqi authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq to "block" the movement of goods, supplies and people, as well as to disrupt logistics benefiting the PKK.

"They should apprehend PKK figures, deny any facilities and close all offices," he said.

In northern Iraq, a Kurdish official was quoted by wire reports as saying that the KRG had shut down the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, which sympathizes with the PKK.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met in Istanbul with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to visit President Bush at the White House on Monday.

"The prime minister renewed the willingness of the Iraqi government to take steps to isolate the terrorist PKK, prevent any help reaching its members, chase and arrest them, and put them in front of the Iraqi judiciary because of their terrorist activities," Maliki's office said.

The Turkish parliament voted last week to authorize Turkish troops to cross the border into northern Iraq to root out an estimated 3,000 PKK guerrillas. Nearly 40,000 Turks have been killed since the PKK took up its armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey in 1984.