European Union delegation visits Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A group of European Union members was in Baghdad Thursday, marking the first such high-level delegation visit to the country since the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Javier Solana, the EU's top foreign policy official, and Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Iraqi officials to prepare for an international conference on Iraq.
Co-sponsored by the EU and the United States, the conference will have "three main issues -- one that is related to politics in general. The second related to security, and the third related to what we may call rule of law," said Solana.
The conference will be in Brussels, Belgium, on June 22.
"I think there is no divide today between the U.S. and Europe as far as the main objectives of Iraq," said Solana, perhaps a reference to the differences between some European countries and the U.S.-led coalition during the war.
The objectives of all countries now include a "prosperous," "stable" and "united" Iraq, with all of the differing religious and ethnic groupings incorporated into the government and the constitution-writing process, he said.
Solana said the delegation is meeting with "everybody," including government leaders and Sunni officials who "are not part of the mainstream of the political system."
"We would like very much to see them incorporated. It will not be a successful transition without the participation of everybody."
Iraq's president Jalal Talabani, said, "We are pleased to have frank dialogue with them [the EU delegation]. They visited Iraq, which was liberated from dictatorship, to show their solidarity with the Iraqi people and pave the way to the conference due to be held in Brussels shortly to help the Iraqi people."
Effort to bring in Sunni Arabs
The visit coincided with the announcement that the 55-member National Assembly committee chosen to write a constitution that will be expanded to include about 15 to 25 non-elected Sunni Arabs.
According to Talabani's office, the Sunni Arabs will not only be advisers, but full members of the committee with equal voting rights. The committee now only includes two Sunni Arabs.
Talabani's chief of staff, Kamaran Karadaghi, said Sunni leaders will submit names of suitable representatives for the committee within the coming week.
This effort is an attempt to pull the Sunni Arabs into a crucial phase of a political process now dominated by Shiite Arabs and Kurds. A permanent constitution, as spelled out by the country's transitional administrative law, must be written by August 15, and a referendum on it must be held in the fall.
A large and powerful minority group, Sunni Arabs have been alienated from Iraq's political process since the fall of Saddam Hussein, under whose regime they enjoyed power.
They stayed away from the January 30 transitional assembly election, and they are believed to hold sway over members of the insurgency.
The transitional government has been looking for ways to bring Sunni Arabs into the political fold to weaken the insurgency and to be as inclusive as possible to all of the groups in Iraq.
Some Shiite members of the committee have expressed their reluctance to grant voting rights to the Sunnis.
An Islamist Web site on Thursday posted the names of 390 foreign fighters it said have been killed in Iraq -- the most extensive list to date that CNN has found.
The greatest number of foreign fighters came from Saudi Arabia, then Syria and Kuwait, according to the Web site, which posted biographies of 90 of the men.
Among those listed were a 15-year-old Lebanese boy, killed in fighting along with his father, and a 13-year-old Syrian who was said to have fought in both battles of Falluja.
At least three Middle Eastern jihadists came from Europe and two others traveled from Afghanistan, according to the Web site.
CNN is unable to verify information on the Web site. However, the figures seemed to agree with other analyses from other Islamist Web sites.
The Web site did not give information on all of the foreign fighters it identified as killed, making it impossible to determine how many came from each country or how many died in suicide bombings.
The Web site claimed that "only a few" Iraqi jihadists were among the slain.
Other developmentsA Marine was killed in a vehicle accident Wednesday near Hit in western Iraq, the U.S. Marines said. The Marine was assigned to the 2nd Force Service Support Group, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. The death brings the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 1,684.A senior U.S. military official said that since May 22, combined U.S.-Iraqi efforts have resulted in 600 daily patrols, 50 offensive operations daily and 150-200 traffic control points every day. He said 50 foreign fighters from Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Saudi Arabia have been detained.Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari honored the Badr Organization's role in fighting Saddam Hussein's regime Wednesday. Some Sunnis blame the group for the killings of Sunni clerics. (Full story)Authorities in The Netherlands have arrested four Iraqis for "preparing attacks" against U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003, the Dutch prosecution office said Wednesday. The arrests were made in early May 2005 in the central Netherlands, a spokesman said. One of the men, who is a Dutch citizen, allegedly was identified on a two-year-old insurgent video shot near Falluja.
CNN's Ayman Mohyeldin, Jennifer Eccleston, Kevin Flower, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.