US tries to exploit rift among Iraqi insurgents — report

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has stepped-up contacts with some Iraqi insurgent groups in a bid to exploit tensions between home-grown rebels and foreign militant groups such as Al Qaeda, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
While talks had taken place previously, the discussions have acquired a greater significance since October as a rift has opened up between Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda, the paper said.

Violence has erupted between Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda in several predominantly Sunni cities, including Taji, Ysefiya, Qaim and Ramadi, the daily reported, citing a Western diplomat, an Iraqi political leader and insurgent leader as unnamed sources.

“In interviews, Iraqi insurgents say there is widespread hatred for Al Qaeda among ordinary Iraqis” because of bombings that have killed thousands of civilians, the paper wrote. The talks were at an early stage but had the objective of engaging Iraqi rebels who want an end to the US military presence but who strongly reject the methods and goals of Abu Mussab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“If we could reach an understanding with each other, meaning the resistance, as they call it, and the coalition, then they will in turn take care of Zarqawi and the terrorists,” the unnamed diplomat told the paper.

Tarik Hasimy, the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party who was in regular contact with Iraqi insurgents, was quoted as saying he did not think the talks had made much progress. One of the sticking points was a demand by insurgents for a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq, he told the newspaper.

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