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Leaders of Iraq Back Militias, Widening Rift With Sunnis

The rift between the Iraqi government and hostile Sunni Arabs widened further on Wednesday as the country’s leaders came out in support of ethnic and sectarian militias that Sunnis fear could be used against them.Top Sunni Arab leaders also demanded that a 55-member committee that is to begin writing a new constitution add at least 25 Sunni seats with full voting powers. There was no immediate response from the Shiite-led committee, but in recent days its members have proposed adding 12 to 15 nonvoting seats for Sunni Arabs. The announcement regarding militias was the first time the new government had publicly backed armed ethnic and sectarian groups, and it was an implicit rebuke to American officials, who have repeatedly asked that the government disband all militias in the country. The largest militias are the Kurdish pesh merga and an Iranian-trained Shiite militia that Sunni leaders have blamed for attacks against them.Full Story

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