Allawi: Iraq Heading Toward Sectarian War

Posted January 18th, 2012 at 3:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The leader of Iraq's main Sunni-backed political coalition says the country needs either a new prime minister, early elections or full implementation of a power-sharing deal, to prevent the country from sliding into a sectarian war.

Speaking Wednesday at a meeting in Baghdad of his Iraqiya alliance, Ayad Allawi blamed Iraq's political crisis on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government. Allawi accused it of unfairly targeting Sunni officials and deliberately provoking a political crisis.

Last month, Mr. Maliki ordered the arrest of Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, charging that he ran death squads that targeted Shi'ite officials. Hashemi denies wrongdoing and fled to northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid detention. He is refusing to return for trial.

To protest the perceived discrimination, Iraqiya began boycotting parliament and the Cabinet. The move has further increased sectarian tension in the country, and on Tuesday the remaining Cabinet ministers suspended the Sunni-backed members until they end their strike.

Iraqiya joined Mr. Maliki's mainly Shi'ite National Alliance in a unity government at the end of 2010.

Allawi, himself a Shi'ite Muslim, proposed several options for resolving the crisis, including the formation of a government of technocrats to organize early parliamentary elections. He also said Mr. Maliki's National Alliance could name a new prime minister who is not driven by sectarian motives.

Also Wednesday, Iraqi officials said at least two rockets were fired at the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, but they caused no casualties. The attack came one day after Turkey summoned Iraq's ambassador to protest claims it has been meddling in Baghdad's affairs.

Analysts say mainly Sunni but officially secular Turkey has heavily courted Sunni and Kurdish political blocs in Iraq in recent years, while Iraq's Shi'ite parties remain closer to Shi'ite-led Iran.

Iraq has seen a surge in bombings and shootings since the last U.S. troops left on December 18. Most of the attacks have targeted Iraq's majority Shi'ites.

In the latest violence Wednesday, Iraqi authorities say gunmen stormed the home of a Sunni militia leader allied to the government in the town of Latifiya, near Baghdad, killing four members of his family. Elsewhere, gunmen killed two people in the eastern town of Mandili.