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Antigovernment Protests Held In Iraq

Protests against Iraq's Shi'ite-led central government have broken out in Sunni-dominated provinces west of the capital.

Reports say demonstrators rallied in the cities of Ramadi and Samarra on December 26 to protest against what they say is the targeting of Iraq's minority Sunni Muslims by officials and security forces from the Shi'ite-led government.

Protesters blocked the main road to Syria and Jordan.

The demonstrations follow last week's arrest on terrorism charges of at least nine bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, a Sunni.

The arrests have exacerbated tensions between minority Sunni Muslims and the majority Shi'ites.

Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi is now living in exile in Turkey after being sentenced to death for allegedly running death squads -- a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP