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Sunni bloc pulls out of Iraqi government

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions.

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to promote unity among the country's factions might be undermined by the withdrawal of the Sunni Arab political bloc from government. ((Mohammed Hato/Associated Press))

Rafaa al-Issawi, a leading member of the Front, said at a news conference in the capital that the bloc's six cabinet ministers would submit their resignations later in the day.

Al-Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government followed what he called al-Maliki's failure to respond to a set of demands put forward by the Accordance Front last week, when it gave the prime minister seven days to meet its demands.

Among the demands: a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

"The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand and has slammed shut the door to any meaningful reform," al-Issawi said. "We had hoped that the government would respond to these demands or acknowledge its failures. But its stand did not surprise us at all."

The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament's 275 seats. Its withdrawal from the 14-month-old government is the second such action by a faction of al-Maliki's "national unity" coalition.

Five cabinet ministers loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government in April to protest al-Maliki's reluctance to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.