Iraq calls off crisis talks over security concerns

Iraq calls off crisis talks over security concerns

Iraqi political leaders Friday cancelled crisis talks on the deteriorating situation in the country over security concerns, a day after serial bombings killed more than 70, the dpa repoeted

The meeting was postponed by parliament speaker Osama al-Najafi until further notice "because the heads of the political blocs could not show up due to the security situation," the report quoted Iden Akso, an adviser to the speaker, as saying.

A series of 13 bombings rocked several areas in the capital Baghdad on Thursday, killing more than 70 people, in the first large-scale attacks following the withdrawal of US troops from the country this week.

Security forces were on high alert Friday around Baghdad, as more attacks were feared. Security was stepped up on all main roads and bridges, mainly those leading to the Green Zone - a heavily fortified area housing various government buildings and foreign embassies.

Meanwhile, influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr blamed rival politicians for the deterioration in security.

"The Iraqi people are fed up with the wrangling among politicians that has led to the death and injuries of dozens and extended underdevelopment, deprivation and poverty," said al-Sadr in a statement.

Iraq has plunged into a political crisis after the Interior Ministry, run by Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, issued an arrest warrant on Monday against the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, on charges of plotting attacks on government and security officials.

"Al-Maliki's fabricated charges have been concocted in collusion with Iran," al-Hashemi told the London-based pan-Arab newspaper, al-Hayat, in an interview published Friday.

Al-Hashemi, who escaped to the semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region, said that if his case "is not closed within days," he would turn to international institutions such as the Arab League and the United Nations - a request that al-Maliki has already refused.

Al-Maliki had also asked parliament to sack his Sunni deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq. Both al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq belong to the Iraqiya Bloc, which has strong Sunni support.

The alliance, which is also part of al-Maliki's government has boycotted parliament to protest the prime minister's latest moves, which have been seen as an attempt to consolidate Shiite control of the government after the US withdrawal.

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