(CNN) | February 20, 2010
Yusuf Bassil

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) — A key Sunni Arab party is boycotting Iraq’s March 7 elections because of what it says was Iranian influence that led to the banning of participants in the upcoming race, including the bloc’s leader.

The Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq, said the move was prompted by remarks by a U.S. general and the American ambassador to Iraq about Iran’s influence in Iraq’s electoral process.

It is seen a setback for efforts to foster reconciliation between Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, Shiites, Kurds and other groups.

Al-Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni Arab politician, was one of several candidates — both Sunnis and Shiites — banned by the Justice and Accountability Commission because of alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baathist Party.

“We can not go along with a political process ran by an a foreign agenda, therefore, the leadership of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue and its members have decided to boycott the next elections,” said Haider Al-Mulla, the front’s spokesman.

“There is an obvious Iranian will that made critical and political decisions within the political process in the last few weeks.”

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