Explosions rock Baghdad amid Iraqi political crisis

The New York Times reports: A wave of coordinated explosions ripped across Baghdad early on Thursday, killing at least 63 people, wounding more than 180 and jolting a country already unsettled by a deepening political crisis and the absence of American troops.

Using car bombs and improvised explosives, insurgents attacked markets, grocery stores, schools and government buildings in a dozen neighborhoods in the central and eastern parts of the capital.

The attacks were the most significant violence in Iraq since the last American troops pulled out of the country earlier this week. So far, the withdrawal and the bitter fighting between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, and his political foes in Parliament have not been accompanied by a rise in violence. But Thursday’s attacks raised the specter that the crisis inside the government could spill into the streets.

The attacks came a day after Mr. Maliki threatened to abandon an American-backed power-sharing government created a year ago. The prime minister’s words at a televised news conference on Wednesday threw a fragile democracy into further turmoil after the departure of American troops, potentially tarnishing what has been cast as a major foreign policy achievement for President Obama.

BBC News reports: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to hand over Iraq’s Sunni Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi.

An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Hashemi on Monday over terror charges.

Tariq al-Hashemi is Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab politician. He says the allegations are “fabricated”.

Mr Hashemi is currently in the region of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish authorities. The warrant was issued a day after US troops pulled out.

US Vice-President Joe Biden has urged Iraqi leaders to work together to avert renewed sectarian strife.

At a news conference broadcast live on Iraqi television, Mr Maliki, a Shia, said he would dismiss ministers belonging to the main Sunni political grouping, Iraqiyya, if they did not lift their boycott of parliament and cabinet.

Iraqiyya – which has been boycotting parliament in protest at Mr Maliki’s alleged authoritarian manner – has suspended its ministers’ participation in cabinet in response to the arrest warrant for Mr Hashemi.

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