Iraq finance minister survives assassination attempt Al Arabiya correspondent

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The crisis escalated when 10 of his bodyguards were arrested last month on terrorism charges. The arrests angered Iraq’s Sunni population, who took to the streets demonstrating against Shiite-backed Prime Minister Maliki, accusing him of targeted marginalization of Sunnis.

Following the arrest of his bodyguards, Essawi demanded that Prime Minister Maliki resign.

“I call on the prime minister to resign, because he did not behave like a man of state,” Essawi told a news conference attended by parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, both of whom are also Iraqiya members.

Essawi said a “militia force” -- an apparent reference to a security forces unit -- raided the finance ministry and his home “in an illegal act, without a judicial order,” detaining his body guards.

Essawi blasted al-Maliki’s government as one “that does not respect its institutions and sovereignty and that cannot live without crisis.”

While he emphasized that he believes the detentions were carried out by militia members rather than state security forces, he suggested that the prime minister had knowledge of the move against his staff.

“Does al-Maliki want me to believe he had no idea about this? This was a deliberate and pre-mediated act,” he charged.

A senior government security official said interior ministry forces carried out arrests of Essawi’s bodyguards as part of a counterterrorism investigation, and that some of them have already been released.

Iraqiya and other members of Maliki’s less-than-unified national unity government have accused him in the past year of concentrating power in his hands and moving towards dictatorship.

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