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Iran Urges Formation Of Unity Government In Iraq

The Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said an Iraqi national unity government should include minority Sunni Muslims.

The Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said an Iraqi national unity government should include minority Sunni Muslims.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iran has urged leaders in neighboring Iraq to form a national unity government that includes Sunni Muslims.

Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi said the Iraqiya coalition, which includes Sunnis and Shi'ites and won the largest share of seats in last month's parliamentary election, would hold discussions in Tehran in the coming days.

Iraqi political leaders have been in talks to form a government since the inconclusive election. Shi'ite Iran has in the past advocated a Shi'ite-dominated government.

"We support and encourage the participation of all the parties, but this is an internal Iraqi thing. It is only consulting [with Iraqiya], no more," Qomi told a news conference in Baghdad. "We are open to all parties."

Since the vote, a number of delegations from Shi'ite and Kurdish factions have travelled to Tehran for talks. Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former prime minister, had criticised opponents for going to Iran after the polls.

Asked about Qomi's comments, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said: "I think that's up to the Iraqis to decide."

Iraqiya finished first in the election with 91 seats, two ahead of the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri Maliki.

Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who could play a key role in choosing a prime minister able to command a majority, echoed Qomi's remarks, saying he supported a government that included all Iraqi factions.

In a rare interview on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television, Sadr said Maliki would be an unacceptable choice as prime minister in the new government.

An internal referendum in the Sadrist party last week backed former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari for the post.

"This is the will of the people and I have to carry it out," said Sadr, whose followers won about 40 seats as part of the third-placed Iraqi National Alliance.

It was not clear when or where the interview was filmed.

Sadr, who has been studying theology in Iran for two years, said he did not reject Allawi as a prospective prime minister, but that his voter base was concerned that Allawi was close to supporters of the ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

The inconclusive election promised weeks of potentially divisive talks between political blocs to form a new government.

There has been an upsurge in bombings and other attacks since the beginning of the month, in which more than 100 people have been killed.