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Iraq's Anbar Province announces civil disobedience

Days after police arrested nine guards of a Sunni minister, about 2,000 Iraqi protesters demanded the ouster of premier Nuri al-Maliki, blocking a highway in western Iraq

Yasser Seddiq & Agencies , Sunday 23 Dec 2012
Anbar
Protesters call for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's resignation during a demonstration in Falluja, a main city in the western desert province of Anbar, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad December 21, 2012.( Photo: Reuters)
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Iraq's Anbar province council calls for a civil disobedience on Sunday, to protest the arrest of nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi last Thursday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has criticized remarks made by al-Essawi describing the government's troops and police as "militias".

The provincial council said in a statement released Saturday that it decided to announce the civil disobedience as of Sunday in response to wishes of the people of the province, to protest against the arrest of safeguards of Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi.

About 2,000 Iraqi protesters, demanding the ouster of premier Nuri al-Maliki, blocked on Sunday a highway in western Iraq leading to Syria and Jordan, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters, including local officials, religious and tribal leaders, turned out in Ramadi, the capital of Sunni province of Anbar, to demonstrate against the arrest of nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi.

Their arrest on terrorism charges has sparked a call from Essawi for Maliki to quit or be removed.

"We are gathered today not for Essawi and his bodyguards, but to change the course of this sectarian government and to overthrow Maliki's government," Anbar provincial councillor Hikmat Iyada told the protesters.

A letter from Sheikh Abdul Malek al-Saadi, a leading Sunni cleric in Anbar, was read at the protest in which he called for Shiites in the government to respect Sunni officials, and the minority Sunni population in Iraq.

Maliki was also condemned in a separate statement issued by fugitive Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, who praised the demonstration.

"Maliki is a prisoner of a sick mind, obsessed with power," said Hashemi, who has been handed multiple death sentences in absentia for charges he insists are politically motivated.

"The Islamic and Arab world looks at him now as the sponsor of the Safavid (Iranian) project in Iraq."

Hashemi also called for a no confidence in the premier, accusing Maliki of aiming "to get rid of his opponents".

Sectarian tensions are still significant in Iraq, which suffered years of brutal confessional violence in which tens of thousands of people were killed and many more forced from their homes.

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