Gunman attacked Arab League delegation in Iraq

Gunmen opened fire Monday on a convoy carrying members of an Arab League delegation that is visiting Iraq, police said.

No casualties were immediately reported in the attack, which occurred as the convoy was driving to a western neighborhood of Baghdad where it was to meet with the Muslim Scholars Association, an Arab Sunni Muslim group, said police Maj. Mousa Abdul-Karem.

Arab League officials in Cairo, where the group has its headquarters, said they had no immediate information on the attack.

The 10-member Arab League delegation arrived in Iraq last weekend to lay the groundwork for an Iraqi "reconciliation conference" it hopes to hold after Iraq's constitutional referendum on Saturday. It was the first time the pan-Arab organization has tried to take a direct role in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

It was not immediately clear who launched the attack, but Sunni-led insurgent groups have killed several hundred Iraqis in the last two weeks in attacks aimed at wrecking the constitutional referendum.

The Arab League also has gotten a cold reception from some Shiite leaders in Iraq's government who resent the League's perceived inaction in response to Saddam Hussein's regime and the predominantly Sunni League's alleged bias in favor of Iraq's Sunni minority.

On Sunday, Iraq government spokesman Laith Kubba urged the Arab League to improve its relations with Iraq by following the example of the United Nations and opening an office in Baghdad. But just before the delegation arrived, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa reportedly issued a warning about the fighting in Iraq.

"The situation is so tense there is a threat looming in the air about civil war that could erupt at any moment, although some people would say that it is already there," Moussa warned in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.


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