Middle East
Iraq's Sadrists call to dissolve parliament
Followers of Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr also want new elections amid political crisis and fresh violence in Baghdad.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2011 11:39
A security cordon outside a government building in Baghdad bore the brunt of Monday's suicide car bombing

An influential political bloc in Iraq has called for early elections in a worsening standoff that has stoked sectarian tensions, amid fresh violence in the capital, Baghdad.

Baha al-Araji, the Sadrist parliamentary chief, said in a statement on Monday that his bloc, loyal to the Shia Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr, wanted to "dissolve parliament and repeat elections".

An official at the movement's headquarters in the southern city of Najaf said Araji's statement "represents all of the bloc, and it represents the opinion of the bloc".

The call came amid a dispute that has seen Iraq's Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, 69, accused of running a death squad and a deputy prime minister call the government a "dictatorship".

Earlier on Monday, a suicide attack killed five people and wounded dozens at the interior ministry in Baghdad.

A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into the interior ministry compound when guards opened the main gates to allow electrical maintenance workers through, a ministry official said.

At least two policemen were among the dead and 14 wounded.

The blast came after a wave of attacks across Baghdad on Thursday killed 60 people. Violence in the provinces the same day claimed another seven lives, making it the deadliest day in Iraq in four months.

Political dispute

Last week, authorities issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi on charges he ran a death squad. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, has also called for his Sunni deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, to be sacked.

Hashemi denies the accusations, and Mutlaq has described Maliki as a dictator "worse than Saddam Hussein".

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, to which both Hashemi and Mutlaq belong, has boycotted the cabinet and parliament.

Hashemi, now staying at the official guesthouse of President Jalal Talabani in the country's autonomous Kurdish region, told the AFP news agency in an interview on Sunday he would not go to Baghdad to stand trial and raised the prospect of fleeing Iraq.

He attributed his refusal to travel to poor security and politicisation of the justice system.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, has said his country will not turn al-Hashemi away if he requests asylum, but that he should stay in Iraq.

Joe Biden, the US vice-president, has made a flurry of calls to Iraqi leaders this week, urging them to mend their fences.

In calls to Maliki on Sunday and the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, on Saturday, Biden "exchanged views ,,, on the current political climate in Iraq and reiterated our support for ongoing efforts to convene a dialogue among Iraqi political leaders", the White House said in a statement.

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