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UN envoy calls on Iraqiya bloc to 'fight in parliament'

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UN envoy calls on Iraqiya bloc to 'fight in parliament'

January 22, 2012

Iraq's main Sunni-backed bloc should help resolve the country's political crisis within parliament rather than stage a boycott, the UN's envoy to Baghdad said on Sunday.

His remarks came more than a month after a row broke out between the Shiite-led government and ex-premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc after authorities charged Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni and Iraqiya member, with running a death squad.

"The government should work, the parliament should work," Martin Kobler said in an interview. "There is a separation of power in this country."

"I do not think that boycott is a good idea. People have to sit together and they have to fight their political differences in the parliament, on the basis of the constitution."

He continued: "That is the place, parliament is the place where political disputes have to be solved."

Last month, Iraqiya began a boycott of parliament and cabinet to protest what it charged was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's centralisation of power, and has since called for Maliki to respect a power-sharing deal or quit.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi while Maliki, a Shiite, has said his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlak should be sacked after the latter said the premier was "worse than Saddam Hussein".

Hashemi, who denies the charges, has been holed up in the autonomous Kurdish region since the crisis flared and Kurdish officials have so far declined to hand him over to Baghdad.

The flareup came just as US troops were completing their withdrawal.

The United Nations and United States have urged calm and called for dialogue, but oft-mooted talks involving all of Iraq's leaders have yet to take place.

"The current political stalemate has to end," Kobler said.

"We are concerned about a political stalemate, because the country deserves better. It is a rich country with a still poor population, and political problems should not hinder economic progress."

The crisis has also stoked sectarian tensions and violence in the past month has killed more than 200 people, according to a tally.

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya, which holds 82 seats in the 325-member parliament, has so far held back from pulling out its nine ministers from the national unity government.

The bloc won the most seats in March 2010 elections but was out-manoeuvred by Maliki's alliance, which eventually formed the government after a prolonged impasse was finally broken in November of that year.

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