Violence in Iraq Ebbs, but Threat of Civil War Persists

An Iraqi woman and U.S. soldier in Ramadi i i

An Iraqi woman closes the shutters to her home as a U.S. soldier arrives to secure the scene of an improvised explosive device found unexploded in the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Feb. 26. David Furst/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption David Furst/AFP/Getty Images
An Iraqi woman and U.S. soldier in Ramadi

An Iraqi woman closes the shutters to her home as a U.S. soldier arrives to secure the scene of an improvised explosive device found unexploded in the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Feb. 26.

David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

Sectarian violence subsides somewhat in Iraq on the third day of a curfew, but the threat of civil war persists. Twenty-nine people — including three U.S. soldiers — die in attacks across the country Sunday. Iraqi leaders are hoping that containment on the ground and political reconciliation will appease Sunnis and Shia.

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DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:

In Iraq today, sectarian violence subsided somewhat but the threat of civil war persists. Twenty-nine people, including three U.S. soldiers died across that country today in a variety of attacks. The death toll following Wednesday's bombing of the Shiia's golden mosque in Samarra now tops 200. Iraqi leaders are hoping that containment on the ground and political reconciliation will forge a truce between Sunnis and Shiia. NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports from Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Shiite and Sunni leaders put away their brinksmanship and came up with a formula they hope will appease both their communities. Tariq al-Hashemi represents Tauafuk(ph), the Iraqi accordance front. It's the biggest Sunni faction in parliament.

Mr. TARIQ AL-HASHEMI (Sunni political leader) (through translator): Generally speaking, the negotiation was awkward, frank, hard and thank god, at the end of the day, everyone was anxious to reach some sort of agreement.

TARABAY: At the meeting, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari drew up a list of 24 conditions that need to be met, like paying compensation to families of victims and repairing damage to Sunni mosques. Also, the factions can move on with political talk. When the reprisals first began Tauafuk(ph) boycotted negotiations on the future National Unity Government. Hashemi says they're still not ready to go back to the table.

Mr. HASHEMI: (through translator) As soon as we see the government doing something to reach or achieve a remedy for the situation, definitely we will get back to the round table for discussing the future government.

TARABAY: For their part, the Shiites say they'll cooperate. Ali El-Dib(ph) is a member of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Despite the injury done to Shiites with the desecration of such a holy shrine, he says they want to keep moving forward.

Mr. ALI EL-DIB (member, Shiite United Iraqi Alliance): (through translator) The government agreed to the requests. That was the reason for last night's meeting. We have to get relations between the factions back to normal.

TARABAY: The curfew in Baghdad applies to the capital itself. All traffic except official vehicles was banned. People loitered outside their houses talking quietly. In a corner store, Saalem Sami(ph) stocked the shelves in the dark. The curfew, he says, can only hold for so long.

Mr. SAALEM SAMI (Baghdad store owner): (through translator) Now everything is fine. But we cannot have a curfew for years. We know these days there are no explosions because of the curfew. It has benefits, but it also hurts my business.

TARABAY: Meanwhile, radical Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr is back. He returned to Iraq today to a rousing reception. In the Southern city of Basra, thousand cheered, calling him their savior. The young cleric is immensely popular among many Shiites. But while he calls for calm and Unity, his Mahdi army is believed largely responsible for many of the revenge attacks against Sunnis since the Samarra shrine was struck. His political leverage may be high, but the Sunni's and the American's want the militia's curtailed. Authorities may choose to continue the curfew on Monday in case the attacks resume. What happens afterwards may depend on how people like Sadr decide to act. Jamie Tarabya, NPR News, Baghdad.

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