Iraqi leader calls for unity

Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A Shiite lawmaker on a social affairs committee in Iraq said government leaders need to do more to prevent an escalation of sectarian violence.

Conflict between members of the Shiite and Sunni communities has been on the rise since December 2011, when U.S. forces left the country. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, called for the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi shortly after they left.

Rising political violence in Iraq prompted Martin Kobler, U.N. special envoy to Iraq, in January to call on Iraqi leaders to "take all necessary steps" to address mounting security woes.

Ali al-Alaq, a Shiite member of Iraq's social affairs committee, told the United Nations' humanitarian news agency IRIN that power should extend across Sunni and Shiite lines.

"We ... have to empower moderate society leaders among the Sunnis and the Shiites," he said. "Politicians must be aware and speak with a calm tone to prevent the political crises from being reflected onto the streets."

Local elections are set for April. The International Crisis Group in July said Maliki shouldn't seek a third term in office in a 2014 national vote.

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