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MIDEAST > 'Syria would be picnic to Iraq'

BAGHDAD - Anatolia News Agency

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Iraqis feel that they are under a great tyranny,’ says Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Iraqis feel that they are under a great tyranny,’ says Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

The Iraqi deputy prime minister has warned that a continuation of the current situation would drag the country into a position worse than Syria, amid the tension brewing across the country.

“The continuation of the status quo in Iraq will only make things worse,” Saleh al-Mutlaq told the Anatolia news agency in an interview. “If things get out of control, Iraq will be in a position never seen in the world before. Iraqis feel that they are under a great tyranny,” al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, said, citing the crackdown on Sunnis across the country and demonstrators complaining of their community being targeted by Shiite authorities.

The latest protests erupted following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, one of the central government’s most senior Sunni officials. “A great disaster may take place in Iraq. Clashes among sects may be greater than those that happened in 2006 and 2007 and those that took place in Syria,” the deputy prime minister said.

Al-Issawi has issued fierce criticisms of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Al-Maliki’s unsuccessful policies have greatly hurt the country’s national unity. Al-Maliki hurt Iraq’s relations with its neighbors,” al-Issawi said. “The fact that Sunni Arabs in Iraq express that they feel neglected does not imply that they are sectarian. The Iraqi government’s sectarian attitude has forced the Sunnis to express that they were neglected and to hold protests.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops fired shots in the air to disperse Sunnis rallying against al-Maliki yesterday. In the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi troops fired shots over hundreds of protesters trying to gather in a public square, and in the Sunni heartland province of Anbar, at least 5,000 people took to the streets peacefully.

“Security forces opened fire and used batons to disperse demonstrators,” said Atheel al-Nujaifi, governor of Nineveh province, which includes Mosul.

The protests are increasing pressure on al-Maliki over Iraq’s power-sharing deal among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs, which have been locked in a crisis since the last American troops left in December 2011.

January/08/2013

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