Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Allawi, Other Centrists Announce Coalition

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and other secular leaders announced a new coalition Monday they said unites moderate Sunnis, Shiites and other political groups to run in December's parliamentary elections.

The coalition appeared to be aimed at striking a middle ground in Iraq's sharply divided political scene, where parties have been strictly defined on sectarian lines, including the Shiite and Kurdish groups that now dominate the government.

"This conference is a major attempt to create a political bloc able to bring unity to this country and intent on saving the people from sectarian strife," said Mahdi al-Hafidh, a former planning minister.

It also could be a vehicle for Allawi to try to return himself to a position of influence. With strong U.S. backing, the secular Shiite was named prime minister of an interim government put in place after American administrators returned sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004.

Allawi and his allies were swept out of power in January parliament elections - the first national vote since Saddam Hussein's fall in April 2003. Clerical-backed Shiite parties won a majority in parliament and kept Allawi out of their coalition with the Kurds."


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