One of Iraq's three vice presidents resigned Monday in an apparent attempt to distance himself from what is seen as an increasingly dysfunctional government.
Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, could not be reached for comment. No formal reason was given for his resignation, after four years in office.
Abdul-Mahdi had threatened for months to leave his post. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, finally accepted his resignation Monday.
"We deeply regret having to accept the resignation of our friend and brother," Talabani said in the statement, adding that he attempted for "many weeks" to persuade Abdul-Mahdi to stay.
"He was with us during the struggle against the dictatorship and we worked together to achieve a free, democratic and federal Iraq," Talabani said.
Talabani spokesman Naseer al-Ani said Abdul-Mahdi was encouraged by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party leaders to step down and save the cash-strapped government the cost of his annual salary of $108,000. But advisers to Abdul-Mahdi privately have said the vice president feared he would be blamed for being part of a failed government should its leaders be ousted by frustrated Iraqis.
Bickering among Iraq's political leaders has kept the government, seated in December, from appointing new defense, interior and national security ministers. Critics say the delay Iraq's stability.
Underscoring the threat, three rockets hit Baghdad's Green Zone on Monday, targeting the heavily guarded fortress where Iraq's government and foreign embassies are located. Police said the rockets were fired from a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. No casualties were reported.
The government is also deadlocked on whether it should ask U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond a year-end departure deadline, and was urged Monday by visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to make a quick decision.
The Iraqi constitution that was approved in 2005 created two vice president posts, which were held by Abdul-Mahdi and Sunni Tariq al-Hashemi. But this spring, parliament approved creating a third seat, which was given to Khudayer al-Khuzaie, a Shiite from the Dawa party headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Abdul-Mahdi and al-Maliki have had a tense relationship for years, and Abdul-Mahdi has made little secret of his ambitions to be prime minister.
Associated Press Writers Saad Abdul-Kadir and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.