Iraqi PM rejects Cabinet members' resignations


Mon, Aug 06, 2007 - Page 7

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has refused to accept the resignations of six Sunni Cabinet ministers who quit last week, a source in the prime minister's office said yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie and five other ministers from the largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, the Accordance Front, triggered a political crisis by announcing their resignations last week.

A senior member of parliament from the Accordance Front said the ministers would still quit, despite Maliki's decision not to accept their resignations.

"We are insisting on our position. For us, the matter does not end with Maliki accepting or rejecting the resignations," Salim al-Jibouri said.

"We are talking about a program. The issue is if he accepts or refuses to accept our program," referring to the Front's lists of demands that include disbanding Shiite militias and giving the bloc a bigger say in security matters.

In other developments, US troops killed the al-Qaeda mastermind of the latest bombing at a prized Shiite shrine, and at least 13 people died when mortars rained down on their Baghdad neighborhood, official said yesterday.

Haitham Shaker Mohammed al-Badri was the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq's Emir of Salahuddin Province, and the figure responsible for the June 13 bombing of the Askariya mosque's twin minarets, the US military said in a statement.

He died in a US operation east of Samarra last Thursday, though his death was announced until yesterday.

"Al-Badri was positively identified by close associates and family members," the statement said.

Al-Badri had also been a suspect in an earlier bombing, in February last year, which destroyed the same mosque's golden dome and set in motion an unrelenting cycle of retaliatory sectarian bloodletting.

He was one of about 80 suspects detained in US and Iraqi raids in the Samarra area over the past week, the US military said.

More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police took part in the giant operation, backed by US paratroopers, it said.

Meanwhile, 13 people were killed early yesterday morning and 14 wounded by mortar shells in southeast Baghdad, police said.

At least three mortars hit the Mashtal area on the eastern side of the Tigris River, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

It was unclear whether they were aimed at the area, or whether the shells fell short of their intended targeted.

Police and witnesses said two of the mortar shells landed near a gas station where people were lining up for fuel at the start of the work week.

Many of the victims were burned by fuel that burst into flames from the attack, the officers said.

"Shrapnel hit my front window ... then two explosions took place," said minibus driver Ali Abdul-Karim, 28. "Me and other drivers ran fast toward the sound of the explosions, to help evacuate the victims."

Abdul-Karim described a ghastly scene, with rescuers scurrying to discern the wounded from the dead.

Also yesterday, six gunmen were killed and 10 others arrested during clashes with Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, 360km northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi Army said.