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Quiet US bid to talk to Iraqi insurgents

One Iraqi official says American representatives have met with some militants.

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As American and Iraqi politicians weigh the merits of engaging regional powers in the search for solutions in Iraq, it appears that both Baghdad and Washington are also quietly talking with Iraq's insurgent leaders in an effort to end the unrelenting violence.

US officials have not commented on reports of these recent meetings with resistance-group representatives. But Arab journalists, politicians, and officials in Jordan say they've occurred.

The meetings have come amid pressure from two key Shiite politicians on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to alter course. The opposition has also stepped up efforts to outflank his increasingly unpopular rule. And in the US, the White House is sifting recommendations from the Iraq Study Group and other reviews as discontent grows over the administration's strategy.

This week, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular politician accused by rivals of links to the insurgency, announced a broad alliance he is calling the National Salvation Front. The bloc aims to unite opposition parties against Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who met with the Bush administration in Washington on Monday.

Iraq's ambassador to Jordan, Saad al-Hayani, says that meetings have taken place in the Iraqi Embassy here between US representatives and members of the resistance in the past few months, as well as between Iraqis who have accepted and rejected the political process under US occupation, some of whom were directly involved with the insurgency.

"Two large meetings happened here in the embassy," Mr. Hayani says. "They included leaders from the last government, the Baathists, and the old Army. They were offered the opportunity to participate in the political situation if their hands were clean. The meetings were successful and necessary and beneficial."

The current Iraqi government has floated trial balloons regarding amnesties for fighters, though the US government has frequently come out against reconciliation with anyone who has attacked US troops.


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