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Iraqi Leader Issues Summit Call Amid Political Crisis

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (file photo) (epa) August 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called a summit of senior political leaders in an attempt to halt the disintegration of his cabinet.

Al-Maliki’s appeal comes in the midst of a serious political crisis as factional and sectarian conflicts continue to escalate.

Iraqi parliament deputy Mahmud Othman, a member of the Kurdistan Coalition, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq he welcomes the move, noting that the cabinet and parliament are not operating as they should.

"I think that the meeting has great importance because the political leaders can decide on the issues that other bodies are not making decisions on -- even the parliament or the government," Othman said. "And that is because the political leaders in Iraq are above the parliament or the government."

Half of al-Maliki’s ministers no longer attend cabinet meetings.

Last month, the main Sunni political bloc in parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, announced the withdrawal of its six ministers from the cabinet, accusing the government of ignoring its concerns.

And just a week ago, five more ministers, belonging to the secular Iraqi National list, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, suspended their participation in cabinet meetings.

'Important Strategic Problems'

Al-Maliki’s summit call, which he made on August 12, gave little hint of the tense atmosphere in Iraqi political circles.

"We must search for solutions to these political problems that we are suffering from," al-Maliki said in a calm and measured tone. "I have called the main political leaders in the country for a meeting to discuss the main issues in the political process. The first meeting may happen tomorrow [August 13] or the day after tomorrow [August 14] with these parties to look, first of all, at the political process and at the important strategic problems that face the government and the rebuilding of the country. We will then go on to look at the questions relating to the implementation of what we was agreed for the government's agenda."

But the depth of the crisis was made clear on August 12, when Iraq’s most senior Sunni politician, Adnan al-Dulaymi, wrote an impassioned e-mail to The Associated Press, in which he called on Arab nations to help stop what he called an “unprecedented genocide campaign” by Shi’ite militias.

Al-Dulaymi said that “Persians” are on the brink of total control in Baghdad and soon would threaten Sunni Arab states in the region.

He called on other Arab states to use “political and moral influence” to pressure al-Maliki to crack down on Shi’ite militias and stop meeting with Iranian officials.

Infighting Among Shi'a

The widening political gulf between Iraq’s Shi’a and Sunnis is not the only split that threatens to tear the government apart. Infighting among Shi’ite factions in the country’s south is also intensifying.

On August 11, the governor of Al-Qadisiyah Governorate, Khalil Jalil, and the provincial police chief, Major General Khalid Hassan, were killed in a roadside bomb attack near the regional capital of Al-Diwaniyah.

Both men were Shi’a. Jalil was a former top operative in the Badr Brigade, a former paramilitary group based in Iran that has since changed its name to the Badr Organization.

The Badr Organization issued a statement calling Jalil a “holy fighter” and seemed to implicate elements of the Imam Al-Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in his killing.

An al-Sadr spokesman denied his organization’s involvement in the deaths of the governor and his police chief.

RFE/RL Iraq Report

RFE/RL Iraq Report

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