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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi Leaders Prepare for Unity Talks

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's dominant Shiite leaders over the weekend prepared for talks with Kurdish and Sunni Arab politicians in a U.S.-backed bid to form a national unity government following Friday's announcement of uncertified final results from Iraq's Dec. 15 elections. The Shiite coalition won 128 of the 275 seats in the parliament, giving it the ascendancy but forcing it to form a coalition to win power.

But Sunnis will reject certain officials' returning to key posts in Iraq's new government, a Sunni leader said Sunday in a clear reference to complaints of violence allegedly committed by Shiite-backed security forces against Sunnis.

A unity government could include members of the once-dominant Sunni Arab community, which lost its position following the 2003 toppling of its former patron, Saddam Hussein. Sunni Arabs are thought to form the backbone of Iraq's raging insurgency.

Tariq al-Hashimi, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party and a partner of the prominent Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, said Sunni politicians had no opposition to any political parties joining the government.

"But we have red lines on some figures who harmed our people, and we will not allow anyone who participated in human rights violation to take any ministerial posts," al-Hashimi told reporters at a news conference at his Islamic Party's Baghdad headquarters.

Al-Hashimi did not specify those whom Sunni Arabs would oppose, but his comments appeared to refer to current Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, whom Sunnis accuse of playing a leading role in directing Shiite forces with militia links to kill Sunni clerics and lay people.

But it could spell a troubled time ahead for negotiations to form a new government, particularly as Shiite political leaders are demanding at least half the posts in the next Cabinet and urging Sunni leaders do more to make insurgent groups stop their violence.

Jabr is a top member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's largest Shiite party known by its acronym, SCIRI, and has served as a senior official in the party's militia, the Badr Brigade, before joining Iraq's first postwar Cabinet in 2003.

Jabr has denied any involvement with killings of Sunnis, blaming instead "terrorists" who have killed religious leaders from both sides of the Shiite and Sunni Muslim divide.

Al-Hashimi also said the Accordance Front has appealed to Iraq's Federal Court, claiming it should have received 11 more seats on top of its tally of 44 that it was awarded after the election results were recently announced.

But the Sunni leader said his front was more concerned with the make-up of the next government and ensuring it dealt with Iraq's security concerns and demanding the end of the U.S.-led military presence. "The new government should come out with a national charter in order to end the sectarian and ethnic division," he said. "

 Insurgents launched roadside bomb blasts and rocket-propelled grenade attacks throughout Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 13 people, including a policeman's four children.