One Sunni party to boycott elections

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A leading Sunni party announced Saturday that it will boycott Iraq's upcoming elections because its leader was barred from participating, casting into doubt the inclusiveness of a vote that the U.S. military hopes will finally stabilize the country enough for its troops to go home.

The Iraqi National Dialogue Front, whose leader, Saleh Mutlak, has been forbidden to run because of his alleged expressions of sympathy for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, cited what it called "Iranian interference" for its decision not to participate in the March 7 parliamentary elections.

Mutlak, a member of parliament, has emerged over the past five years as a forceful spokesman for Sunnis disgruntled over the political process. His party won 11 seats in the last elections, enough to make a difference when it comes to choosing who will form the next government.

One of the U.S. military's biggest fears is that Sunnis who feel disenfranchised by the ban on candidates will refuse to accept the election results or recognize another Shiite-led government, plunging the country into renewed political turmoil and perhaps new violence.

The secular coalition to which Mutlak's party belongs announced Saturday that it will contest the election and resume campaigning.