Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, warned Saturday that efforts to create an autonomous Sunni region within Iraq would divide the country and lead to “rivers of blood.”
His comments came as a government crisis has strained ties between the two Muslim sects to the breaking point. Al-Maliki’s government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on what al-Hashemi says are trumped-up charges that he ran hit squads against government officials.
Since al-Maliki formed his government last December, minority Sunnis have been complaining of being marginalized by the Shiite-led government, prompting some Sunni provinces – Salahuddin, Diyala and Anbar – to call for the creation of an autonomous area similar to the northern Kurdish region.
On Saturday, al-Maliki renewed his rejection to forming regions on a “sectarian basis,” saying it would lead to “dividing Iraq and to rivers of blood.”
Iraq’s anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, launched an initiative Saturday calling for peaceful coexistence among all Iraqis after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. The last soldiers left Dec. 18. Al-Sadr, whose militiamen were blamed for sectarian killings during the worst years of Iraq’s violence, is seeking to assert his political weight in Iraq after the U.S. pullout.
Al-Sadr’s proposal comes just two days after a terrifying wave of Baghdad bombings killed 69 people and wounded nearly 200. The bombs tore through mostly Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, evoking fears the country could descend into a new round of sectarian violence.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle