Last update 11:56:33 AM
Sunni lawmakers pulled out of talks on forming a new Iraqi government after terrorists affiliated to the Iranian regime killed at least 70 Sunni worshipers in an attack on a Sunni mosque in a volatile province outside Baghdad during Friday prayers.
The blocs affiliated with Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al-Mutlak demanded that outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the main Shiite parliamentary bloc hand over the perpetrators within 48 hours and compensate the families of victims "if they want the political process and the new government to see the light of day."
The joint statement blamed the attack on "militias" in an apparent reference to armed groups allied with the government which are affiliated with the Iranian regime.
The dismantling of groups affiliated with the Iranian regime is a key demand of Sunni leaders. Human rights groups say they operate outside of the law and have kidnapped and killed Sunni civilians.
The United States condemned the attack and said it "stands with the people of Iraq against this violence."
"This senseless attack underscores the urgent need for Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum to take the necessary steps that will help unify the country against all violent extremist groups," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
Al-Abadi, the new prime minister, has until Sept. 10 to submit a list of Cabinet members to parliament for approval.
On Friday Iraq's top Shiite cleric again called upon national leaders to settle their differences in a "realistic and doable" manner and swiftly form a new government to confront the Sunni insurgency.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said the next government should be made up of candidates who care about "the country's future and its citizens" regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliations.
Al-Sistani warned that politicians' "demands and conditions could derail the forming of the new government."
The reclusive cleric's remarks were relayed by his representative, Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie, during Friday prayers in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Source: News agencies
Iran News in Brief - 23 April 2015