Iraq's Maliki warns could call early elections
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned on Wednesday he will call for early elections if other political parties refuse to negotiate to end a crisis over power-sharing that threatens to revive sectarian tensions.
Iraq's Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs have been locked in turmoil since the last U.S. troops left the country in December, with Maliki's critics now seeking a vote of no confidence against the Shi'ite leader.
A government spokesman said Maliki's statement was not an immediate call for early elections, but a signal from the prime minister to other political parties to negotiate over the ongoing crisis or face an early ballot.
"If the other party refuses to sit at the negotiating table and insists on creating crisis after crisis..., then the prime minister finds himself compelled to call early elections," a statement from Maliki's office said.
Maliki and his followers could make gains in new elections, given the fragmented nature of Sunni and Kurdish-backed parties.
While attacks and bombings have eased sharply, the political crisis has been accompanied this month by a spike in attacks on Shi'ite pilgrims and religious sites, a reminder of the country's darker days of violence.
Bombs planted around a Shi'ite politician's house killed seven people and wounded 21 others in Baghdad on Wednesday, police said, while a bomb at the home of a government-backed militiaman killed his wife and two of his daughters.
Iraq's next parliamentary election is not scheduled until 2014, but the current coalition government has been mired in political infighting since it was formed 18 months ago, after an inconclusive 2010 vote in the OPEC member country. Continued...