BAGHDAD, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- An Iraqi minister at the center of a brewing political crisis in the country survived an attempt on his life in an attack west of Baghdad, al-Arabiya reported.
The Arab broadcaster reported that Iraqi Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi, who's emerged as a staunch opponent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, survived an assassination attempt Sunday.
Essawi had called on Maliki to step down after members of his security detail were arrested in December on terrorism charges. Following the arrests, the minister was quoted by al-Arabiya as saying it was time for Maliki to go "because he did not behave like a man of the state."
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
Iraq is to have elections in April for provincial councils. Elections in 2009 resulted in the longest political stalemate in world history as Iraq's leaders struggled to reconcile over internal differences.
Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has thrown support behind the anti-Maliki movement that has emerged in western Anbar province.