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Sunni Protesters Block Highway In Western Iraq

Thousands of protesters in western Iraq have blocked the highway into neighboring Syria and Jordan to protest against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The protesters in the Sunni-dominated region are angry over the arrests earlier this month of 10 bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi on terrorism charges.

The protesters include local officials and religious and tribal leaders.

They were calling for "a change of course of the sectarian government" and for Maliki to step down.

The protests come at a time of heightened tensions between Iraq's Shi'ite majority and the large Sunni minority.

Sunnis accuse the Shi'ite Maliki of trying to marginalize them.

Earlier this year, Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia for running death squads.

He is now in Turkey.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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