Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani called on the country's Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step down, the spokesman for the president's party said on Sunday, escalating a political split between the two factions that make up the government.
Sunni Arab leaders, meanwhile, were angered after the Shiite-dominated parliament passed a new ruling on the key Oct 15 constitutional referendum making it more difficult for Sunnis to defeat the draft constitution that they oppose.
The political wrangling deepened the splits between Iraq's three main communities amid a constitutional process that was aimed at bringing them together to build a democratic nation. Kurds complained that Shiites were monopolizing the government, while Sunnis—who have made up the backbone of the violent insurgency—accused Shiites of stacking the deck against them in the political process.
The Kurdish-Shiite split hits the core of the coalition that has made up the transitional government. Talabani has made veiled threats to pull the Kurds out of the coalition if their demands are not met, a step that could bring the government's collapse, reports the AP.
Mr. Talabani further alleges that the government's dominant Shi'ite coalition party, called the United Alliance, has made no effort to keep the promises it made to the Kurds in a joint agreement the two sides signed three months before the interim government took power on June 30.
A key promise in that agreement reportedly called for the government to begin tackling the issue of resettling Kurds in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the face of overwhelming Sunni-Arab opposition.
During the rule of Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Kurds were forced out of the Kirkuk area and replaced with Sunni Arabs. The Kurds, who want to make Kirkuk a part of their semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, say Shi'ites in government have done nothing to help the Kurds push their case forward.
Prime Minister Jaafari has not commented on the Kurdish accusations. But Mr. Othman, the Kurdish assembly member, says that Kurdish leaders are serious in their threat to pull out of the interim government, if Mr. Jaafari and other Shi'ite leaders refuse to play by the rules.
"They have said (if) they cannot solve this problem, then they will try to activate Article Six of the agreement between both sides. Article Six says if problems could not be solved through dialogue and through meetings, then one side may withdraw from the Cabinet," Mr. Othman says, informs VOA.