Iraq Sunni bloc suspends parliament participation

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 6:50 AM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's Sunni-backed bloc on Saturday suspended its participation in parliament accusing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government of concentrating power, a sign of rising political tensions as U.S. troops withdraw.

The move by the Iraqiya parliamentary bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, intensifies political jostling among the Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs who form Iraq's fragile power-sharing government.

Iraqiya said in a statement it was "suspending its participation in parliament ... until further notice," accusing Maliki of stalling on promises to form a partnership government.

Iraqiya's decision highlights the sectarian tensions always close to the surface in Iraq and shows the fragile nature of country's power-sharing balance as the last American troops withdraw before December 31.

The bloc complained Maliki is delaying filling key positions such as the ministries of defense and security, posts which have been empty for a year because of political squabbling.

Supported strongly by minority Sunnis, Iraqiya won the largest number of seats in a 2010 national election but failed to muster a governing majority.

Iraqiya joined a unity coalition headed by Maliki in December, winning powerful posts such as the parliament speakership, vice presidency, and other ministerial positions.

Many Sunnis felt marginalized in the last government and by the rise of majority Shi'ites to power following the ousting of Saddam Hussein after the U.S. 2003 invasion.

(Reporting by Baghdad Bureau; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Sophie Hares)