IRAQI political leaders are set for crisis talks after the country suffered its deadliest attacks in four months amid a row that has seen its prime minister threaten to dissolve power-sharing.
Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted on charges of running a death squad, blamed the crisis on Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and accused the Iraqi leader of behaving like executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, Maliki has called for his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlak to be sacked while the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, to which both Hashemi and Mutlak belong, has boycotted both parliament and the cabinet.
Tensions were further heightened yesterday, when insurgents carried out coordinated attacks in Baghdad that killed 60 people and wounded nearly 200, while violence elsewhere in the country left another seven dead.
In an interview with the BBC’s Arabic Service, Hashemi blamed Maliki for starting “a national crisis, and it’s not easy to control”.
“Iraqis have a right to be worried,” Hashemi said.
Hashemi, who has denied the terror charges against him and is currently holed up in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, said yesterday’s attacks occurred because the authorities were too busy chasing “patriotic politicians”.
“What happened today shows the deficiency and it’s a good evidence for the lack of control over administration of the security brief, because the security services are pointed in the wrong direction,” he said.
The vice-president also told US magazine Foreign Policy that “many of Saddam’s behaviours are now being exercised by Maliki unfortunately”.
“The judicial system is really in his pocket,” Hashemi said.
His remarks echo those of Mutlak, who has likened the Shi’ite-led government to a “dictatorship” and said Maliki is “worse than Saddam Hussein”.
Those comments prompted the prime minister to ask parliament to sack his deputy.
Thursday’s violence was the worst since August 15, when 74 people were killed in a series of attacks across 17 Iraqi cities.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, parliament called for an urgent session of political leaders to be held on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer and rest.
It was not immediately clear which politicians would attend the meeting, or whether Iraqiya, which has kept its parliamentary boycott in place, would join.
The crisis came just days after US troops completed their withdrawal, leaving behind what President Barack Obama had described as a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq”.
The White House insisted Iraq’s security forces were capable in the face of Thursday’s “heinous” attacks.
The US embassy said it was “especially important during this critical period that Iraq’s political leaders work to resolve differences peacefully”.
United Nations special envoy to Baghdad Martin Kobler slammed the “horrendous” attacks and said Iraq’s leaders must “act swiftly, responsibly and in unity
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