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Iraqi Sunnis return to government
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The Iraqi government on Saturday endorsed a list of ministerial posts, including candidates from a leading Sunni party alliance which quitted the government a year ago.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki speaks while Parliament Speaker Mahmud Al-Mashahdani (R) listens during a press conference held after the opening ceremony of the national reconciliation conference in Baghdad, March 2008. The Iraqi parliament has voted for the return of six Sunni ministers to the cabinet Maliki, giving a fresh boost to the country's reconciliation programme.(Xinhua/AFP File Photo)

The return of Sunnis marks a positive step towards achieving political reconciliation in the country plagued by sectarian feud.

Six portfolios went to the Sunni bloc Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), including a deputy prime minister, ministers for higher education, culture and communication, and ministers of state for foreign affairs and women's affairs.

Four independent candidates filled up the vacuum left after the withdrawal of a Shiite party last year.

"What happened today is a national step forward to boost the government's role and take the national reconciliation ahead," said the bloc's spokesman Saleem Abdullah.

"The IAF is committed to supporting the national unity government, as long as it moves in the right direction, and the government in return is committed to giving the IAF a real active participation," he said.

The IAF is the third largest bloc in the parliament. It pulled its six members out of the cabinet in August, claiming that the Shiite-led government had snubbed its demands like a greater share of power and the release of Iraqis jailed for security reasons, including a considerable number of Sunnis.

A Shiite party led by radical cleric Muqtada Sadr and the secular party headed by former interim government Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also followed suit last year.

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