A senior Iranian leader says his country is willing to negotiate with the United States to resolve the conflict in Iraq.
Ali Larijani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, said he is accepting a call from Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim for Tehran to open a dialogue on Iraq with Washington.
Meanwhile, Iraq's new parliament held its first session Thursday in Baghdad, three months after Iraqis voted in a landmark election for a full-term legislature to replace the interim government.
The session began with a reading from the Koran, followed by the collective swearing-in of the parliament's 275 members. But the meeting was adjourned after just half an hour because there is still no agreement among the parties on the makeup of the new government.
Baghdad's streets were largely deserted as the Iraqi parliament prepared to meet, after authorities imposed a ban on vehicles to prevent violence. The U.S. military deployed 700 extra troops to protect both the parliament and Shi'ite pilgrims preparing for a major religious holiday, Arba'een, which will be celebrated on Monday in Karbala.
In a separate development, thousands of Kurds went on a rampage in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja in a show of anger at the lack of government services. Police fired into the air to break up the riot, killing one person and wounding several others.
The rioters disrupted events marking the 18th anniversary of the poison gas attack on Halabja by Saddam Hussein's army, in which 5,000 people died. The protesters set fire to a museum for the victims, destroying the monument.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington sees "a very good chance" that Iraq will become stable and secure in the next few years, with the support of U.S.-led coalition forces.
... Payvand News - 3/16/06 ... --