Iraq PM moves to oust deputy as US forces leave

Nuri al-Maliki called on lawmakers to withdraw confidence from a Sunni Arab who described him on television as "worse than Saddam Hussein".

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2011, 21:37 PM IST

Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
called on lawmakers on Sunday to withdraw confidence from one of
his deputies, a Sunni Arab who described him on television as
"worse than Saddam Hussein".

Maliki`s push for Saleh al-Mutlak to be removed from his
post comes amid a political deadlock with the deputy prime
minister`s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which announced a day
earlier that it was suspending its participation in parliament
in protest at the premier`s alleged centralisation of power.

The latest moves come with the US military having
completed its withdrawal from Iraq on Sunday, nearly nine years
after the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam from power.

"The prime minister sent an official letter to
parliament, asking it to withdraw its confidence in Saleh
al-Mutlak after his recent statements," Ali Mussawi, media
advisor to Maliki, told news agency.

Mutlak, who had been accused of being a supporter of
Saddam`s outlawed Baath party in the run-up to March 2010
elections that he was barred from standing in, told CNN on
Tuesday that Washington was leaving Iraq "with a dictator".

And in a separate interview with his own Babiliyah
satellite television channel, Mutlak charged: "Maliki is worse
than Saddam Hussein, because the latter was a builder, but
Maliki has done absolutely nothing."

Meanwhile, security officials said at least two guards of
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also a Sunni Arab and an
Iraqiya member, were arrested in connection with a November 28
attack on parliament.

Local Iraqi news outlets also reported that an arrest
warrant had been issued for Hashemi himself, but judicial and
police officials declined to comment.

On Friday, Iraqiya, which emerged as the largest bloc in
March 2010 elections and has 82 lawmakers in the 325-seat
parliament, issued a statement saying it was suspending its
participation in parliament to protest what it said was
Maliki`s centralisation of decision-making.

Iraqiya, which garnered most of its support from Iraq`s
Sunni Arab minority, was out-manoeuvred for the premiership by
Maliki, who, after finishing second in the elections, struck a
deal with another grouping to broaden his power base.

The bloc, which controls nine ministerial posts, has not
pulled out of Iraq`s national unity government, however.
Iraqiya said the government`s actions, which it claimed
included stationing tanks and armoured vehicles outside the
houses of its leaders in the heavily-fortified Green Zone,
"drives people to want to rid themselves of the strong arm of
central power as far as the constitution allows them to."

PTI