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Iraqi foreign minister blames Maliki for insurgency

Source: Reuters - Fri, 1 Aug 2014 12:58 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Maliki furious with Kurdish ambitions

* Tensions hurt efforts to unite against Islamic State

* Violence eases in July as insurgents pause (Releads with Zebari)

By Raheem Salman

BAGHDAD, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his security officials are to blame for the rise of Sunni insurgents who have seized parts of Iraq, the country's Kurdish foreign minister said.

Hoshiyar Zebari's comments are likely to further strain ties between Maliki's Shi'ite-led government and the Kurds, complicating efforts to form a power-sharing government that can counter Islamic State militants.

"Surely the man who is responsible for the general policies bears the responsibility and the general commander of the armed force, the ministers of defence and interrior also bear these responsibilities," Zebari told al-Arabiya television.

"There are other sides who bear responsibility, maybe political partners, but the biggest and greatest responsibility is on the person in charge of public policies," he said.

In July, the Kurdish political bloc ended all participation in the national government in protest over Maliki's saying that Kurds were allowing terrorists to stay in their capital Arbil.

Maliki is currently ruling in a caretaker capacity, having won a parliamentary election in April but failing to win enough support from the Kurdish and Arab Sunni minorities as well as fellow Shi'ites to form a new government.

The United States, the United Nations and Iraq's own Shi'ite clerics have urged lawmakers to form a new government swiftly to deal with the Sunni insurgency.

BIGGEST THREAT SINCE SADDAM'S FALL

Islamic State's campaign has fuelled religious tensions and threatened Iraq's survival as a unified state. The sectarian conflict poses the biggest danger to the OPEC member's stability since the fall of Saddam Hussein following a U.S.-led invasion.

Maliki has appointed Hussain al-Shahristani, the Shi'ite deputy prime minister, as acting foreign minister.

The Kurds have long dreamed of their own independent state, aspirations that anger Maliki, who has frequently clashed with the non-Arabs over budgets, land and oil.

After the Sunni militants arrived almost unopposed by the army, Kurdish forces seized two oilfields in northern Iraq and took over operations from a state-run oil company.

In another move certain to infuriate the government, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region is pressing Washington for sophisticated weapons it says Kurdish fighters need to push back Islamist militants, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militias now rival the army in its ability to confront the Islamic State, whose fighters had taken control of parts of western Iraq before the advance through the north.

The Sunni insurgents have stalled their campaign in towns just north of Baghdad, which could partly explain why U.N. figures show the number of Iraqi deaths dropped to 1,737 people, mostly civilians, in July compared to 2,400 in June.

Still, violence is part of everyday life.

Roadside bombs killed four people near a square in central Baghdad on Friday, medical and security sources said.

There are signs that Iraqis are growing impatient with the Islamic State, which has blown up mosques and shrines and imposed its radical views of Islam in Mosul and other cities in controls in the north.

One of the Islamic State's propaganda centres in Mosul, which conrtains a big screen where the group showcases its operations, was set ablaze on Friday night, a witness said. (Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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