Shiite, Sunni lawmakers argue in chamber

Other News Materials 6 December 2007 22:08 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - A shouting match erupted in parliament Thursday between a Shiite lawmaker and a powerful Sunni Arab politician whom he accused of harboring sectarian sentiments against Iraq's Shiite majority.

The public outburst illustrates the intense sectarian tensions in the country and could renew calls by Shiite politicians that Adnan al-Dulaimi, the Sunni politician, be stripped of his parliamentary immunity to stand trial for inciting sectarian strife.

The quarrel began when Bahaa al-Aaraji, a follower of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told the 275-seat house that he had evidence that al-Dulaimi has branded Shiites "heretics" whose killing is legitimate.

He said the evidence was in documents he held while addressing parliament, but declined to divulge their contents when he later spoke to reporters.

"Legal action must be taken against him," he said over al-Dulaimi's protestations.

"They are false, they are false," the Sunni Arab politician shouted.

Iraqi forces have repeatedly raided al-Dulaimi's offices in a western Baghdad neighborhood over the past week, arresting 42 people linked to the politician. The detained, who included al-Dulaimi's son, are under criminal investigation, but the chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said the politician himself was not under suspicion.

One of al-Dulaimi's security guards was discovered with a key to an explosives-laden car found near the offices. Al-Moussawi also said authorities have received scores of complaints from residents of Adil, the district in which the offices are located, charging that al-Dulaimi's security guards were involved in sectarian violence and the eviction of residents from their homes.

Al-Aaraji, addressing a hastily convened news conference, said there was enough incriminating evidence against al-Dulaimi that the government should go ahead and arrest him rather than wait for his immunity to be lifted.

Al-Dulaimi is the leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, a three-party alliance with 44 seats in parliament. He has been a harsh critic of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The front's six Cabinet ministers have pulled out of the government to protest his policies.

"Everything he said is nothing but lies," al-Dulaimi told reporters, referring to al-Aaraji. "I am a well known and a peaceful personality and don't incite the killing of Shiites, Kurds or Sunnis. I dare anyone to prove otherwise."

He, in turn, accused al-Aaraji and his brother, cleric Hazem al-Aaraji, of inciting the murder of Sunnis.

Sunni-Shiite tensions surfaced shortly after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni, and reached a boiling point following the bombing in February of a major Shiite shrine north of Baghdad. The bombing, blamed on Sunni militants, unleashed a wave of sectarian killings that claimed tens of thousands of lives.