BAGHDAD ( Associated Press) — Iraq’s finance minister resigned on Tuesday, two government officials said, amid a deepening political crisis involving an influential Shiite cleric and his Iranian-backed rivals.
Minister Ali Allawi resigned during a cabinet meeting to protest the political situation, the sources said, asking not to be identified under the rules. He said Oil Minister Ehsan Abdul-Jabbar would replace him on an interim basis.
Allawi’s decision comes weeks after members of the parliamentary bloc of Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadr resigned from parliament and his supporters stormed the legislative headquarters in Baghdad. Al-Sadr then called for the dissolution of parliament and an early election.
Al-Sadr won the most seats in elections last October, but was unable to form a coalition that would oust his pro-Iran rivals.
The factional coordination framework of al-Sadr’s rivals had previously stated that parliament would have to meet to dissolve. He describes the attack on the parliamentary headquarters as a “coup” and a demonstration in favor of the government.
Earlier, al-Sadr postponed rallies that his supporters called on Saturday because pro-Iranian groups called their own marches later that day. This raised fears of conflict between the two main Shia forces in Iraq.
“If you are betting on civil war, I am betting on civil peace. Iraqi blood is priceless to me,” al-Sadr said in a statement suspending the protests.
The political crisis in Iraq, now in its 10th month, is the country’s longest political crisis since the US-led invasion in 2003.