Baghdad: Iraq`s Shiite-dominated Cabinet
suspended boycotting Sunni-backed ministers, an official said,
deepening a sectarian conflict of politics and violence that
has raised fears of civil war in Iraq now that US troops are
The Sunni-based Iraqiya bloc started its boycott last
month to protest an arrest warrant against the Sunni vice
president on terrorism charges. The official, Tareq
al-Hashemi, denied the allegations and fled to the autonomous
Kurdish area of Iraq, out of reach of authorities in Baghdad a
move that itself underlines the sectarian divisions in Iraq
and the challenge of keeping the country together after the
exit of US forces a month ago.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Cabinet
decided that the ministers who have failed to attend sessions
are no longer "allowed to manage ministries, and all decisions
that will be signed by them are invalid." The Iraqiya
ministers would be allowed back into the Cabinet if they end
their boycott, al-Dabbagh said.
Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun Damluji charged that the
suspension is part of the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki`s efforts to sideline the Sunni-backed alliance and
cement his own grip on power. Only one of nine Iraqiya
ministers broke with the bloc`s boycott and attended Tuesday`s
Cabinet session, Damluji said.
"It`s an escalation by al-Maliki to push Iraqiya away,"
The government crisis could intensify sectarian
resentments that have remained raw in Iraq, despite years of
efforts to overcome them. Minority Sunnis fear the Shiite
majority is squeezing them out of any political input, and
Shiites suspect Sunnis of links to insurgency and terrorism.
Alongside the government crisis, violence has surged
across Iraq since American troops left December 18, raising
fears of re-igniting the fighting between Sunni and Shiite
militias that raged a few years ago and brought the country to
the brink of civil war.
Since the beginning of the year, a string of bombings has
left at least 155 people dead. Most of the attacks appeared
aimed at Iraq`s Shiite majority, suggesting Sunni insurgents
are seeking to undermine the Shiite-dominated government and
its efforts to protect people from violence without American