(BAGHDAD) — The Iraqi government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has canceled Thursday’s reconciliation conference with opposition groups just a week after hosting an Arab League summit that Baghdad had used to boast the progress it has made since the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The decision to postpone the event, which was intended to smooth relations between Sunni and Kurdish factions, once again highlights the deep political divisions within the government that is trying to position itself as a stable democracy in the Arab world.
Complicating matters is a visit by Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, to Saudi Arabia in an effort to create good will between Baghdad and the Gulf States.
However, the trip wasn’t sanctioned by al-Maliki’s administration since al-Hashimi is considered a fugitive wanted on terrorism charges that the vice president contends are trumped up in order to marginalize him and the Sunni opposition.
Indeed, al-Maliki has been accused himself by Sunnis and Kurds of trying to consolidate power as he apparently ignores a power-sharing agreement signed in 2010.
What’s more, Iraq’s Arab neighbors have grown increasingly frustrated with the prime minister for openly defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose year-long crackdown on political opponents has created much angst in the region with the Arab League having previously called for al-Assad to step down from power.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN