ERBIL , Iraq, July 11 (UPI) -- The Kurdish bloc, angered over comments by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, will no longer participate in Iraq's government, the former foreign minister said Friday.
"We have suspended our government business," Hoshiyar Zabari said.
Zebari was replaced Friday in the foreign minister's position by Hussein Shahristani, who, like Maliki, is a Shiite.
Zebari said elected Kurdish parliament members would continue to attend parliamentary sessions, but other Kurdish government activity, including involvement in Iraq's trade, migration and health ministries, would end.
Kurds remain angry that Maliki, in a nationally televised broadcast earlier this week, blamed Kurds for allegedly protecting insurgents in their capital city of Erbil and for allowing the militant group Islamic State to use Erbil as a base of operations.
The departure of Kurds from day-to-day government business is the latest sign that Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, is preparing itself for independence. Kurdish parliament members walked out on a July 1 session after it devolved into accusations and name-calling; the Kurdish government has called for a referendum soon on independence.
"The country is now divided literally into three states: Kurdish; a black state -- a reference to the Sunni militants of the Islamic State -- and Baghdad," Zebari said.