Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told US Vice- President Joe Biden on Saturday that no specific parties are targeted in banning some 500 candidates from March’s parliamentary elections.

“The Accountability and Justice Law has been applied in accordance with constitutional processes and included all lists running in the election,” Mr. al-Maliki said during his meeting with Mr. Biden in Baghdad.

“It did not target any specific party,” Mr. al—Maliki said, according to a source in the media office of the cabinet.

Mr. Biden arrived in Baghdad on Friday night for talks with Iraqi leaders to resolve the issue of the candidates banned from the elections, scheduled for March 7.

Some 511 candidates and 10 groups have been banned by the Accountability and Justice Commission, an independent body which replaced the de-Baathification Committee, from running in the elections because of their links to the outlawed Baath Party.

Mr. Biden told Mr. al—Maliki that Washington supports applying the 7th article of the Iraqi constitution that bars the Baath party from taking part in the political process, the source added.

After the meeting, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that the two leaders agreed that this is an internal issue that “only the Iraqis can solve, and that the United States has no role in it.” President Jalal Talabani, who supports the inclusion of non- Saddamist Baathists in the Iraqi political process, has cast doubt on the legality of the commission and its decision.

“We asked in an official letter to judge Madhat al-Mahmoud (president of the Iraqi Supreme Court) that he rule on the legality of the integrity and accountability committee,” he said earlier in the week.

The ruling Baath Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Baath Party is now outlawed in Iraq, but Mr. Talabani says the ban only applies to Saddamist Baathists.

Keywords: Bidenal-MalikiMarch polls

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