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 Iraq crisis escalates with calls for PM Maliki to go

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Iraq crisis escalates with calls for PM Maliki to go  2.6.2012  

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malik delivers a speech during a ceremony at Al-Shaab stadium complex in Baghdad, December 31, 2011. Photo: Reuters
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June 2, 2012

BAGHDAD,— A series of intertwined political crises that began with accusations that Iraq's prime minister was consolidating power have escalated into calls to unseat him, and paralyzed the country's government.

"The political crisis has reached its highest level since its beginning, but it is still running within the framework of the democratic game," Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.

"The country is paralyzed on all levels; there is a clear political paralysis paralleled by governmental negligence and a failure of the legislative authority, while the people are disappointed and afraid of the security consequences," Shammari added.

The trouble began in earnest in mid-December, when the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc began a boycott of parliament and the cabinet over what it said was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's centralisation of power.

For his part, Maliki sought to sack Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, an Iraqiya member who had labeled the premier "worse than Saddam Hussein."

That month, an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also of Iraqiya, for allegedly running a death squad.

Hashemi fled to the autonomous Kurdistan region in north Iraq, which declined to hand him over to Baghdad and then permitted him to leave on a regional tour that took him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

He is now being tried in absentia in Iraq.

Kurdistan further entered the fray when its chief, Massoud Barzani, launched a series of attacks against Maliki.

In April, the region stopped oil exports, claiming Baghdad has allegedly withheld more than $1.5 billion that Kurdish officials say is owed to foreign oil companies working in the region.

And powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose parliamentary bloc is part of the national unity government along with Iraqiya and the Kurdish alliance, referred to the premier as a "dictator" hungry for acclaim, and accused him of wanting to postpone or cancel elections.

But Maliki opponents have now moved from merely criticizing the premier to talk of actually removing him from office.

Iraqiya, which eventually returned to parliament and the cabinet, has sought to convince President Jalal Talabani to initiate a vote of no confidence in the premier in parliament, while Barzani has said he cannot work with Maliki.

"Maliki must change his policy or he will be replaced," Barzani's chief of staff Fuad Hussein said in an interview with the Rudaw news site posted on the Kurdistan region presidency's website.

"The message to Maliki is that if he can change his policy, he is welcome to do so; otherwise, he will be changed," Hussein said.

The months of acrimony have taken a toll on the functioning of the government.

Parliament has not passed significant legislation except for the budget, while other important measures such as a hydrocarbons law regulating the country's oil sector have been delayed.

And a national meeting of political leaders originally scheduled for December that was aimed at defusing the tension has yet to be held.

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP


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