- The Iraqiya bloc describes its move as a "gesture of goodwill"
- A separate boycott of the cabinet remains in place
- The Sunni-backed bloc is critical of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
- Vice President Biden called Iraqi leaders recently as bloodshed worsens
A powerful political bloc in Iraq ended its boycott of the country's parliament on Sunday, describing the move as a "gesture of goodwill."
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc is one of the largest political groups in Iraq. It pulled out of parliament in December and returns as recent bloodshed raises fears of renewed sectarian violence.
"The Iraqiya bloc announces, as gesture of goodwill, that it will return to participate the parliament sessions," the group said in a statement. For now, a separate boycott of the cabinet remains in place, it added.
Before the boycott, Iraqiya had been in a power-sharing deal with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance, backed mostly by Shiites. The political bloc accused the prime minister of cutting it out of the decision-making process.
On Saturday, the White House said that Vice President Joe Biden has been calling Iraqi leaders in an apparent attempt to soothe political tensions. He spoke with Dr. Ayad Allawi, an Iraqiya leader, and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujaifi.
"The two Iraqi leaders described deliberations under way among all Iraqi political factions and parties in the run-up to a proposed national conference led by President Jalal Talabani," the White House statement said. "The vice president discussed with both leaders the importance of resolving outstanding issues through the political process. The vice president and Iraqi leaders agreed to stay in close touch as events unfold."
In the latest in a series of attacks, a suicide car bomber killed at least 31 people and injured 60 others in a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad on Friday, two police officials said. The bombing occurred as mourners were heading toward a hospital in Baghdad's Zafarniya district to recover the bodies of relatives shot the night before, officials said.
The bombing has raised fears of a return to the sectarian violence of the previous decade when the Sunni-Shiite hostilities engulfed Iraq at the height of the war.
The bloodshed has generated uncertainty about the ability of Iraqi security forces to ensure order, particularly after the United States withdrew troops at the end of 2011.