Baghdad: The Iraqi prime minister and president on Thursday announced a new alliance of moderate Shiites and Kurds, saying Sunni moderates refused to join but the door remained open to them.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said the agreement was the first step to unblock political stagnation that has gripped his Shiite-led government since it first took power in May
Pressure has been mounting against Al Maliki who has been criticised for having a Shiite bias and failing to stop the sectarian violence, which persists in Iraq despite the presence of tens of thousands of extra US troops.
The announcement of the political accord after three days of intense negotiations in the capital was disappointing because it did not include Iraq's Sunni Vice President
Tariq Al Hashemi and his moderate Iraqi Islamic Party.
President Jalal Talabani and Al Maliki were flanked by the leader of the northern autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, and Shiite Vice President Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi at a news conference.
The four men signed a three-page agreement that they said ensures them a majority in the 275-member parliament that would allow movement of critical US-demanded legislation.
Talabani, a Kurd, said Al Hashemi refused the invitation to join in the new political grouping but "the door is still open to them and they are welcome at any time."
Al Maliki also called on the Sunni Accordance Front, which includes Al Hashemi's party, to return to the government, to heal a rift that opened when the bloc's five Cabinet
minister quit the government.
The four-party agreement was unveiled four weeks before the top US commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to deliver a progress report on Iraq to Congress.
"We have relegated efforts to topple the government to the past. We are now in a new stage," said Al Maliki's adviser, Yassin Majeed. "We will keep working to bring the
Accordance Front back, but if they insist we will have a majority in parliament and bring in new ministers."
Omar Abdul-Sattar, a lawmaker with the Iraqi Islamic Party, said Kurdish representatives issued the invitaton on Wednesday and it was refused. "We said we are not ready to
join this alliance at the current time," he said.