Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is monopolising power and preparing the ground for a return to dictatorship, Kurdish leader Massud Barzani charged in an interview published on Sunday.
"Iraq is moving towards a catastrophe, a return to dictatorship," said Barzani in the interview, published in pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. He added that it was "unacceptable" that Al-Maliki was also Iraq's "defence minister, interior minister, intelligence chief and commander of the armed forces."
Barzani, who was received at the White House on Wednesday, said upon his return to Arbil that he would call a meeting of Iraqi leaders to "save" Iraq, which is facing a political crisis.
Iraq's political woes deepened after an arrest warrant was issued in December against Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashemi, a Sunni, who has been accused of running death squads.
The meeting must come up with "radical solutions... [and a] specific timeframe to exit the crisis," Barzani added.
If the meeting fails, "we will take another decision," he warned, in reference to the possible secession of Kurdistan.
"This is not blackmail or a threat. I'm serious. I will put a referendum to the Kurdish people. Whatever the price, we will never accept a return to dictatorship in Iraq," Barzani said, referring to Saddam Hussein, whose iron-fist rule was staunchly criticised by Iraqi Kurds.
Tensions are high between Iraqi Kurds and Al-Maliki, a Shia, mainly over the distribution of the nation's oil wealth.