Iraq Finance Ministry Staff Kidnapped

By The | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), December 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Iraq Finance Ministry Staff Kidnapped


The, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


BAGHDAD - Iraq's finance minister on Thursday accused a "militia force" of kidnapping members of his staff and said he holds the prime minister personally responsible for their safety.

Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi leveled the charges just hours after Iraq's ailing president was flown to Germany for medical treatment following a stroke. The 79-year-old president, Jalal Talabani, is widely seen as a unifying figure who is able to rise above Iraq's often bitter politics and mediate among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.

Al-Issawi made the

accusations in a late-night press conference, where he called on parliament to hold a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.

The move is certain to inflame Iraq's simmering political tensions.

which have been heightened since an arrest warrant was issued against one of al-Issawi's political allies a year ago. Political rhetoric is heating up ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April.

Al-Issawi is a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, al- Maliki's main political rival. He was flanked during the televised address by senior members of the bloc, including the parliament speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al- Mutlaq, who last year branded al-Maliki a dictator in a TV interview.

Al-Issawi blasted al-Maliki's government as one "that does not respect its institutions and sovereignty and that cannot live without crisis."

While he emphasized that he believes the detentions were carried out by militia members rather than state security forces, he suggested that the prime minister had knowledge of the move against his staff.

"Does al-Maliki want me to believe he had no idea about this? This was a deliberate and pre-mediated act," he charged.

A senior government security official said interior ministry forces carried out arrests of al-Issawi's bodyguards Thursday as part of a counterterrorism investigation, and that some of them have already been released. The official agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the operation to reporters.

Repeated attempts to reach al-Maliki's spokesman for comment were unsuccessful.

A year ago, bodyguards assigned to another senior member of Iraqiya, Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, were arrested. Shortly afterwards, an arrest warrant was issued against al-Hashemi himself accusing him of orchestrating death squads - a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.

Al-Hashemi initially stayed at a guest house belonging to Talabani, but later fled the country and is now living in neighboring Turkey. …

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