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Iraq's political strife intensifying, as U.S. troop exit plan wrapped up

By Zhang Ning, Wang Hongbin (Xinhua)

08:29, December 19, 2011

BAGHDAD, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Political wrangle between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his major rival bloc has been intensified, as the final U.S. troops moved out of the country on Sunday.

The hasty resumption of power struggle which many experts have predicted in the wake of the U.S. troop pullout, deepens the concern over the security situation in the country which has been under the U.S. occupation for nearly nine years.

The infuriated Maliki asked the national parliament to withdraw confidence from his Sunni deputy Salih al-Mutlak on Sunday, after the latter described Maliki as "a dictator."

"The prime minister sent a letter to the parliament, asking for withdrawing confidence from Salih al-Mutlak, as he is no longer eligible for his post as deputy prime minister," Yassin Majeed, a leading figure in Maliki's State of Law political bloc, said in an interview with the state-run Iraqiya TV channel.

Mutlak branded Maliki as "a dictator" in an interview with CNN, and on anther occasion Mutlak told his own satellite TV channel of Babiliyah that "Maliki is worse than Saddam Hussein."

Mutlak, one of the leading figures of Maliki's rival bloc al- Iraqia, blast out the remarks days after Iraqi military forces detained two security guards and one driver working Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

The arrest warrant was reportedly issued for Hashimi but merely resulted in the seizure of his private employees. Hashimi, another al-Iraqia high-profile member, was alleged of involvement in a car bombing attack near the national parliament building inside Baghdad's Green Zone in November.

The attack, leading to the injury of a parliamentary member, was assumed by Maliki as targeting him.

On Saturday, the Sunni-backed parliamentary bloc of al-Iraqia, headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, boycotted the parliamentary sessions, demanding reforms and protesting "the unilateralism" by Maliki.

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