Nuri al-Maliki's opponents accuse the prime minister of trying to consolidate power [Reuters]

The largest political alliance in Iraq's government has said that it would end its boycott of parliament.

The decision by Iraqiya on Sunday, backed by much of the country's Sunnis and some secular Shias, could ease an ongoing political crisis in the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia prime minister.

While lawmakers will return to parliament when it reconvenes on Tuesday, Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damluji said the Iraqiya's ministers will not attend a cabinet meeting on the same day to protest arrests and prosecution of Sunni officials.

Iraq's political crisis erupted last month after the Shia-led government issued an arrest warrant against the Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sidelined one of his deputies who criticised al-Maliki. In protest, Iraqiya lawmakers and ministers boycotted parliament and cabinet sessions, bringing government work to a standstill.

"As a goodwill gesture, Iraqiya announces its return to parliament meetings to create a healthy atmosphere to help the national conference, and to ... defuse the political crisis," al-Damluji told a news conference.

Damluji's announcement followed a meeting of Iraqiya's top officials including alliance head Iyad Allawi, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, finance minister Rafie al-Esawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the deputy prime minister al-Maliki had tried to oust.

The decision by Iraqiya clears the way for a national conference between main political blocs largely segregated along Shia, Sunni and Kurdish lines. Deep disputes over power-sharing remain unresolved, keeping alive the risk that Iraq could fall back into widespread sectarian violence.

Al-Maliki says his action against Hashemi was judicial and not political, but his moves against two key Iraqiya figures have compounded fears among Iraqi Sunnis that he wants to consolidate Shia control and his own power.

Al-Hashemi remains in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where his immediate arrest is unlikely.

Source: Agencies