Saturday 24 March 2018

Kurds boycott Iraq cabinet over row

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, centre, accused the Kurds of harbouring militants in Iraq (AP)
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, centre, accused the Kurds of harbouring militants in Iraq (AP)

Iraq's Kurds have said their politicians will stay away from cabinet meetings to protest about remarks made by embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The announcement comes a day after Mr al-Maliki accused the largely autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq of harbouring the Sunni militants who have overrun much of the country.

The prime minister provided no evidence and the Kurds denied the allegations.

Deputy Prime Minister Roz Nouri Shawez, the highest level Kurdish official in the government said "such statements are meant to hide the big security fiasco by blaming others and we announce our boycott of cabinet meetings".

Kurds also hold the cabinet posts for foreign affairs, trade, health and immigration and displacement.

The move is largely symbolic, since the government has continued operating in the past when the Sunni bloc fully withdrew its ministers but it underlines the deepening split between Mr al-Maliki and the Kurds.

The Kurds also called on Mr al-Maliki to step down, blaming him for failing to stop the Sunni militant offensive.

The presidency of the Kurdish self-rule region said he "has become hysterical and has lost his balance".

"He is doing everything he can to justify his failures and put the blame on others for these failures," the presidency said in a statement posted on its website.

It accused Mr al-Maliki of destroying the country and demanded that he step down.

The PM's rivals and even some former allies accuse him of helping fuel the crisis by failing to promote reconciliation with minority Sunnis, who complain of being treated as second-class citizens.

Mr Al-Maliki, whose State of Law bloc won the most seats in April elections, has refused to heed calls to step aside and vowed to pursue a third consecutive term.

That has led to political deadlock as lawmakers attempt to form a new government that can hold the country together as it confronts the militants who have control of much of northern and western Iraq.

Iraq's civil aviation authority suspended all cargo flights to the Kurdish region until further notice.

The head of the authority, Nassir Bandar, said the decision was taken "due to the security situation and (events) in Mousl where it is not possible for us to handle shipments".

He said passenger flights to the airports of Sulaimaniyah and Irbil in the Kurdish region will not be affected.

Press Association

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