Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Largest Sunni Arab bloc suspends membership in Maliki's cabinet, threatens full withdrawal from government

Above: The major players -- Nuri al-Maliki (Prime Minister, Shiite), Tariq al-Hashemi (one of two Vice Presidents, Sunni), Moqtada al-Sadr ('fiery' anti-American cleric, Shiite), Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim (head of the largest Shiite coalition), Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq, Kurd, Qadiri Sufi sect of Sunnism), and Massoud Barzani (President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Naqshbandi Sufi sect of Sunnisim). The Sunni bloc just returned to parliament this week after Mahmud Mashhadani was reinstated as speaker. Sadr's parliamentary bloc also returned recently to the legislature following a protest of the most recent bombing of the al-Askari shrine in Samarra. The U.S. military has said that Sadr is back in Iran, which Sadr's aides are denying.

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc suspends membership in al-Maliki's Cabinet

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc said Wednesday it has suspended its membership in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government, dealing a serious blow to the Shiite leader's efforts to achieve national reconciliation.

The Iraqi Accordance Front, which has five Cabinet members as well as 44 of parliament's 275 seats, said it was giving al-Maliki a week to meet their demands or they would quit his 14-month-old Cabinet altogether.

"The Accordance Front announces the suspension of its membership in the government," Sheik Khalaf al-Elyan told a news conference also attended by the two other leaders of the three-party Accordance Front, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and Adnan al-Dulaimi.

Reading from a prepared statement, al-Elyan said the front's demands were a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, a firm commitment by the government to human rights and the disbanding of militias.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Iraq's largest Sunni bloc widens cabinet boycott

Iraq's largest Sunni parliamentary bloc announced on Wednesday that it is expanding its boycott of cabinet meetings to a full withdrawal from the government.

A spokesman for the bloc said it would give Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki a week to meet its demands before taking further action.

"There were a host of demands submitted by the (Concord) Front to the government, including suspending the raids and arrests," spokesman Salim Abdullah said.

The Front demanded that the government do more to reign in the country's powerful Shiite militias, many of which are allied to political parties.

"This suspension is for one week. We are waiting for a positive response from the other parties, to see if they will deal with our demands seriously," Abdullah said.

The Front's Sunni ministers launched a boycott of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government after an arrest warrant was issued in June against culture minister Asaad Kamal al-Hashemi.

The minister is accused of plotting to kill fellow Sunni MP Mithal Alussi in an ambush in February 2005. Alussi escaped the assault in Baghdad but his two sons were killed.

Separately, on July 19, the Concord Front's MPs ended a month-long parliamentary boycott and saw one of its leading but controversial members, Mahmud Mashhadani, reinstated as speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly.

The return of the Sunni parliamentary bloc was seen as a boost to the embattled parliament at a time when it battles to pass key legislation aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Read the rest at Middle East Times

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