Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat – Senior Iraqiya bloc MP, Ziad al-Dharib, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Sadrist trend within the Iraqi cabinet strongly refused the proposal put forward by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to appoint Sadrist ministers, or others, to replace the Iraqiya bloc ministers who did not attend the meeting.” This was after the Iraqiya bloc took the decision to boycott all ministerial and parliamentary meetings in protest to Nouri al-Maliki’s monopolization of decision-making, as well as the arrest warrant issued against Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday had threatened to replace ministers belonging to the Iraqiya bloc if they continued to boycott the national unity cabinet. During a news conference in Baghdad, al-Maliki said “ministers have no right to suspend their membership in the government because they will be considered [to have] resigned” adding “in the next cabinet meeting, if they do not come back, we will appoint replacements.”
Ziad al-Dharib, who head the Iraqiya affiliated al-Hal parliamentary bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no truth whatsoever to the claims that other ministers have taken over the ministerial portfolios of the Iraqiya bloc ministers, due to their non-attendance of the weekly cabinet meeting.”
He added “al-Maliki did indeed try to appoint Sadrist Minister for Planning, Ali Shukri, to act as Minister of Finance…but Shukri refused to take the proxy.” Al-Dharib also stressed that Shukri “contacted Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi to inform him that he has refused this appointment.”
The Iraqiya bloc MP Ziad al-Dharib also revealed that “Minister for Transport Hadi al-Ameri [of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq] also announced his refusal [to take the proxy of an Iraqiya bloc minster] during the cabinet meeting itself, as such decisions cannot be rushed, particularly as there are discussions taking place with the Iraqiya bloc with the objective of reaching a quick resolution to the crisis.”
Answering a question about the Iraqiya bloc Minister of Electricity, Dr. Karim Aftan’s attendance of the cabinet meeting, al-Dharib clarified that “the Minister of Electricity did not only attend the cabinet meeting, but one day prior to this he attended the Committee on Energy headed by Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, this was because he had attended the meeting of Arab Energy Ministers in Cairo, during which an agreement was signed, and this is a technical issue that required him to attend the cabinet meeting.”
Al-Dharib also revealed that “al-Shahristani telephone Iraqi Minister of Science & Technology Abdulkarim al-Samarayee to call him to attend the cabinet meeting, but he refused.”
Al-Dharib confirmed that “the Minister of Electricity had no choice but to attend the cabinet meeting….as issues relating to the electricity agreement were being discussed.”
As for whether the Minister had coordinated with the Iraqiya bloc regarding his attendance of the cabinet meeting, al-Dharib said “in all honesty, he did not coordinate with us, he found himself embarrassed on a big issue that cannot be delayed.”
In a statement issued by the Iraqiya bloc today, Iraqiya bloc leader Iyad Allawi increased his demands to resolve the current crisis that is threatening to split the national unity government. Allawi has said that the Iraqiya bloc will refuse to attend any meeting to resolve the present crisis which does not include the attendance of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, Sadrist trend leader Moqtada al-Sadr, and Islam Supreme Council of Iraq [ISCI] leader, Ammar al-Hakeem. He also called for the formation of a committee comprising major political leaders to investigate the integrity of the accusations that have been leveled at Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.