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Crisis summit aims to save Iraq's Maliki

The US wants to see clear steps toward national reconciliation.

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"If the Americans continue to depend on the political process [that] they devised and they continue to use the same politicians that have proven their failure, then they will fail," he said. "But if they start thinking of an alternative that relies on wisdom and force to correct the situation, then they can leave Iraq in peace and in a face-saving way."

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Baghdad-based political scientist Wamidh Nadhmi is not optimistic that the crisis meeting will have any meaningful result. The problem, he says, is that the current leaders, on whom the Americans are pinning their hopes, came to power based on a sectarian blueprint devised by Washington.

"America is asking them now to abandon their sectarianism, but they came to power depending on sectarian lists," says Mr. Nadhmi.

In a sign of growing US frustration and impatience over the government standstill, US officials here recently asked former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite, to join a new coalition that would bolster Maliki's government. Mr. Allawi said he refused the offer in a television interview last week with Asharqiya. The US embassy declined comment on this.

Allawi, who has ambitions to return to government, has ordered ministers from his Iraqiya bloc to boycott cabinet meetings. Not all have complied. He said his party presented Maliki with suggestions five months ago that would "reform the political process" but that he never responded.

In an interview with Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper, Allawi said there was no point in talking to Maliki anymore. "What kind of dialogue can take place between a sectarian government and the Iraqiya list, which works according to a national project away from sectarian considerations."

Ms. Allaf, the London analyst, says the fate of the political process in Iraq depends now on how its neighbors – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey – react, given their ties to all the players. And, she says, the US needs to realize the importance of the regional influence and to apply pressure on those camps both directly and indirectly.

Talk of a leaders' summit followed the Iraqi Accordance Front pullout. It was originally to be held in the Kurdish north at the end of July, then was to take place this week after Maliki's announcement of the summit Sunday and the arrival of the Kurdish region's president, Massoud Barzani, in Baghdad.

On Tuesday, Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, hosted a lunch at his residence that was attended by everyone but Hashemi. "Iraq is united and this is not an exaggeration," Iraq's other vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, told reporters during the banquet.

Later Tuesday, Hashemi met with Mr. Barzani and he was supposed to meet him again Wednesday night in the presence of Mr. Talabani in an attempt to salvage the summit. "We are prepared to attend this summit as long as there is an agenda," Iyad al-Samarraie, a senior member of Hashemi's bloc, told the Monitor.

Getting Iraq's feuding leaders to agree on the timing and format of the summit appears to be as much of a challenge as the actual talks. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd and Talabani partisan, has been leading preparatory meetings with the political factions to come up with an agenda that would tackle reconciliation, power sharing, and legislation included in the 18 benchmarks devised by the White House to measure the Iraqi government's progress, according to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily.