BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Sunni-backed political alliance ended a parliament boycott Sunday, officials said, but the bloc’s ministers will stay away from Cabinet meetings to protest arrests and prosecution of Sunni officials.
The decision underlines sectarian tensions in the Shiite-dominated government as violence surges just weeks after U.S. troops left the country.
The political crisis erupted last month after Iraq’s Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant against the Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges. In protest, Iraqiya lawmakers and ministers boycotted parliament and Cabinet sessions, bringing government work to a standstill.
Maysoun al-Damlouji, a spokeswoman for the Iraqiya bloc, said its lawmakers will return to the parliament when it reconvenes Tuesday. She said Iraqiya’s leaders decided during a meeting Sunday that the bloc’s ministers will not attend the weekly meeting of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet the same day.
Iraqiya Sunni lawmaker Etab al-Dori said the decision to end the parliament ban is aimed at restoring some stability to the country’s turbulent political processes and “serve the nation in the best way possible.”
That includes participating in a vote on the country’s budget and pushing through a resolution that would end persecution of Sunnis by security forces that are mainly Shiite, al-Dori said.
Iraqiya leaders accuse al-Maliki of efforts to marginalize the Sunni minority and cement his own grip on power.
Al-Maliki’s security forces have launched a widespread crackdown against Sunnis, detaining hundreds for alleged ties to the deposed Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. Iraqiya officials said 89 of its members have been detained in the past three months.
Al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, denied the charges of running death squads and fled to the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, out of reach of authorities in Baghdad. He is refusing to return for trial in Baghdad.
The political battle coincides with a wave of bombing attacks, most of them targeting Shiites, killing more than 200 this month.
The twin crises have raised fears of a reprise of a conflict five years ago, when heavily armed Shiite and Sunni militias battled each other and brought the nation to the brink of civil war.
Although there were no claims of responsibility for the attacks, recent bombings resemble previous ones by al-Qaida in Iraq. The group has stepped up attacks since the U.S. completed its withdrawal, in apparent efforts to provoke a counterattack by Shiite militias on Sunnis that could re-ignite sectarian warfare.
On Friday, a suicide car bomber struck a Shiite funeral procession in southwestern Baghdad, killing 33 people and injuring 65.
Associated Press writers Mazin Yahya and Bushra Juhi in Baghdad contributed to this report.