Iraq's Maliki brushes off growing concerns

Dec. 21, 2012 at 11:53 AM

BAGHDAD, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused some in his government of exploiting the arrest of ministerial bodyguards for political purposes.

Nine bodyguards for Iraqi Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi, a Sunni, were arrested this week on suspected terrorism charges. In a statement Thursday, the finance minister said Maliki had no respect for "the law and the constitution," reports CNN.

Maliki said Essawi's claims were an effort to "fabricate political crises" in a country that remains on edge a year after U.S. combat forces left the country.

The arrests followed the alleged kidnapping of 150 members of Essawi's staff. The finance minister is from the Iraqiya slate, a Sunni-led coalition critical of Maliki, a Shiite. Last year, Essawi accused Maliki of trying to create a dictatorship, The New York Times reported.

A series of internal political disputes and a string of attacks across the country have sparked concerns about Iraq's post-war stability.

"We were very surprised by linking the issue of detainees with the political differences and even by trying to drag the whole country toward sectarian strife," CNN quoted Maliki as saying.

Baghdad said recently it would have provincial council elections in April. Elections in 2009 resulted in the longest political stalemate in world history as Iraq's leaders struggled to reconcile over internal differences.

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