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Iraq leaders praise group accused of killings

Talibani brushed off claims the Badr Organization had been involved in the targeting of Sunnis.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Jalal Talabani
Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi government officials have publicly supported a Shiite organization charged by many Sunni leaders with responsibility in the murders of their clerics and other notables.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari paid tribute Wednesday to the contribution of the Badr Organization and backed the group taking on a greater and more formal role maintaining Iraqi security.

Other Sunni leaders were quick with praise for the organization and said the group "should be part of the political process."

"You and your (Kurdish) brothers are the heroes of liberating Iraq," Talabani said, addressing a conference at the headquarters for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The meeting marked the second anniversary of the Badr Organization's self-proclaimed transformation from military wing of SCIRI to political group.

Talibani cited the opposition role played by both the Badr Brigade -- as it was known before changing its name to the Badr Organization two years ago -- and his own Kurdish militia, know as the Peshmerga, in combating Saddam Hussein and called on them to take a greater role going forward.

Talabani brushed aside accusations that the Badr Organization had been involved in the targeting of Sunnis.

"You, my brothers, march on without paying attention to the enemies' claims because you and the (Kurdish militia) are faithful sons of this country," he said.

Also at the meeting was Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president, Ghazi al-Yawar, who said it was necessary for all Iraqis to come together and welcomed the Badr Organization's role as a political group in the country.

The Badr Organization has been accused by some prominent Sunni figures as being complicit in a recent spate of killings of Sunni clerics and have charged the Shia-dominated government with giving the organization too much power.

Last month, Harith al-Dhari the head of the Sunni Arab Muslim Scholars Association, made fiery accusations against the Badr Organization, claiming: "We knew the sides that stand behind the assassinations of imams, sheiks, and prayers ... they are the Badr militant group."

In subsequent weeks, efforts have been made to quell sectarian tension with the creation of Shia and Sunni councils to discuss the accusation of tit-for-tat killings traded between the two groups.

Nasir al-Ani, a representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of Iraq's most prominent Sunni parties, told CNN the conference "was well balanced for the benefits of all sides in Iraq."

"The Badr Organization should be involved in the political process," said al-Ani, who attended the conference.

"It's not only the Badr Organization that must be involved in the political process, but all political entities in Iraq must participate and be involved in the formation of the constitution."

Al-Ani praised Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, and the secretary general of the Badr Organization for their support to all Iraqis without pointing fingers at any side.

Asked about al-Dhari's remarks, he said: "There were talks held involving officials from each side, and this situation was solved.

"We just hope that what was said today will be the guidelines that are practiced throughout Iraq," he said.

"I think this was an important event, and therefore it is important for all to continue to have a neutral attitude and work towards curing the security situation in Iraq."

CNN's Kianne Sadeq contributed to this report.

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