Protestors in Iraq block highway, call for PM to step down

[12/23/2012 12:00:00 AM]

Thousands of protestors in Iraq have called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stand down after nine guards loyal to Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi were arrested and charged with terrorism offences on Thursday.

Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday.

The arrest of the nine guards sparked protests and calls for the Prime Minister to leave office. After the arrests, Essawi called for a vote of no confidence in Maliki.

The dispute comes amid heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq and a military stand-off in the Kurdish region over oil contracts. It is almost exactly a year since a similar purge targeted Sunni Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi’s guards. Hashemi fled to Turkey and has been given multiple death sentences in asbsentia.

Maliki’s critics say he the sponsor of an Iranian agenda in the country and is acting in a tyrannical manner.

The country is currently without one of its key mediators, since Kurdish President Jalal Talabani was flown to Germany for treatment after suffering a stroke.

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