A leading Sunni politician said Friday his party would be open to an alliance with secular Shi'ites and Kurds to form a coalition government to run the country once the results are in from this week's parliamentary elections.
"We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate," said Adan al-Dulaimi, a former Islamic studies professor who heads a Sunni Arab bloc that is now expected to have power in parliament.
In a joint statement, the two senior US officials in Iraq offered congratulations on the successful election and called for unity as the country approaches formation of a new government.
The statement by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and top US commander Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said "more needs to be done" to overcome differences to "build bridges for national unity and establish an effective, broad-based government."
"We urge all Iraqis to pursue their objectives peacefully through the political process," the statement said.
US officials view al-Dulaimi, who heads an alliance called the Iraqi Accordance Front, as a possible intermediary who could persuade some Sunni-led insurgent groups in restive Anbar province to join the political process after boycotting previous votes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Al-Dulaimi predicted that Shiite religious parties would be unable to form a government - even though they are widely expected to take the largest number of seats.
That would open the door to a coalition of Sunnis, secular Shi'ites and Kurds, al-Dulaimi said.
"We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate," he said.