Iraq’s political crisis deepens after finance minister quits

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Iraq’s Sunni finance minister announced yesterday during a protest in the western city of Ramadi that he will resign from the government, heightening the country’s political crisis.

The arrest of bodyguards assigned to finance minister Rafia al-Issawi in late December set off a more than two month-long wave of Sunni protests against the Shiite-led government.

Mr Al-Issawi’s announcement marks the first resignation of a senior Sunni member of government since the protests began.

“I am presenting my resignation in front of you. I do not care about a government that does not respect the Iraqi blood and its people,” Mr al-Issawi told thousands gathered to protest against what they see as unfair treatment and discrimination against their sect by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government. The resignation has to be formally endorsed by Mr al-Maliki, leaving Mr al-Issawi’s status in government unclear for now.

Earlier yesterday, two car bombs struck a market south of the Iraqi capital killing five and wounding dozens, the second such attack in as many days.

The twin bombing targeted the market in the Shiite city of Diawaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, at the height of trading when many people pour to the market at the start of the weekend. The head of the provincial council, Jubair al-Jabouri, said five people were killed and 70 were wounded in the attack. He blamed the blasts on al-Qaeda, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A day earlier, a similar attack tore through a crowded livestock market in the town of Aziziyah, also south of Baghdad, killing three and wounding eight people.