BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc returned to the government fold Saturday after calling off a nearly 1-year boycott of the Shiite-dominated leadership — another critical stride toward healing sectarian rifts.

The return of the National Accordance Front does more than politically reunite some of Iraq's main centers of power.

It was seen as a significant advance toward reconciliation and efforts to cement security cooperation between Shiite-led forces and armed Sunni groups that rose up against al-Qaida in Iraq.

The United States has pressured Iraq's government to work toward settling the sectarian feuds, which brought daily bloodshed until recent months. The hope is that more parties staked in the future of Iraq could mean a quicker exit for U.S. and other foreign forces.