Key oil-sharing plan runs into roadblock in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Leading Sunnis in Iraq's parliament continued Wednesday to snub a set of U.S.-supported oil laws that many see as key to ending sectarian killing.

The laws would regulate Iraq's oil industry and govern how to distribute oil revenues. The Bush administration contends passage of an equitable oil-sharing law would draw Sunnis into the Shiite-led government and help heal the nation's deep religious rift.

U.S. lawmakers also see the oil provisions as a gauge that measures the effectiveness of President Bush's surge strategy. An influx of 28,500 troops has brought total force strength to 150,000.

Some U.S. and Iraqi politicians predict the Iraqi parliament won't pass the legislation by September, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is supposed to assess the success of the troop increase.

Iraq's known oil reserves are concentrated in the Kurdish north and Shiite south. Minority Sunnis fear they won't get what they consider a fair share of the country's oil riches - second only to that of Saudi Arabia.

Iraqis of all political and sectarian stripes have concerns about any provision that would call for sharing oil revenues with foreign oil companies.

Ministers from parliament's Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front have boycotted voting for the bills. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday predicted that parliament would begin debating the legislation. But on Wednesday an official for the group said no draft should be considered until the Sunnis return to session.

"Any draft law that is approved in the absence of the Iraqi Accordance Front only represents the groups that approved it," Khalaf al-Ilyan told al-Sharqiya television.

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq on Wednesday issued a fatwa or religious decree forbidding parliament from voting for the oil bills. "Those who are doing this will get God's rage," according to a statement from the clerics. Approving the bills would demonstrate "collusion with the enemy," a reference to the United States.

The fatwa, however, has little political sway, many local observers say.

Meanwhile, 16 unidentified bodies were found around the capital on Wednesday.

Two civilians were injured when mortars landed in the Mansour neighborhood in west Baghdad, and two others were wounded in a mortar attack on the Doura neighborhood in the southern part of the capital. Mortars also hit the fortified Green Zone. No injuries were reported.

A suicide car bomber killed two Iraqi soldiers and injured seven at a checkpoint near a bridge connecting Saidiya and New Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed one Iraqi soldier and injured three near the Shurta Tunnel in the Ja'amia neighborhood.