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Iraqi Premier Rejects U.S. Sectarian Warning

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari (file photo) (epa) 21 February 2006 -- Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari has dismissed U.S. warnings that Iraqi parties and factions should avoid sectarianism when forming a new government.

His comment comes the day after U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States is investing billions of dollars in Iraq and does not want to see that money go to support politics that favor one religious or ethnic group over another.

Speaking in Baghdad today, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called for a government of national unity following December's parliamentary elections in Iraq.

"We've now had the final, accredited [election] results," Straw said. "What they show is that no party, no ethnic or religious grouping, can dominate government in Iraq and this, therefore, gives further impetus to what Iraqis tell us they want. [This] is a real government of national unity, binding together all the different elements of Iraqi society."

Straw also defended British troops caught up in a scandal over alleged abuse in Iraq. He said there have been very few allegations of abuse overall since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Three people have been arrested since the release of a videotape on 12 February apparently showing British soldiers beating Iraqi civilians.

(Reuters, AFP)