Iraq's finance minister resigns over political crisis

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's finance minister resigned Tuesday, two government officials said, over the country's worst political crisis in years involving an influential Shiite cleric and his Iran-aligned rivals.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said Finance Minister Ali Allawi resigned during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to protest the political conditions. They said Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar will become acting finance minister.

Allawi's decision came weeks after members of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc resigned from parliament and his supporters stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr later demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.

Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the election last October but failed to form a majority government that excluded his Iran-aligned rivals.

Al-Sadr’s political rivals in the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself. They called the al-Sadr supporters' storming of parliament a “coup” and have held demonstrations in support of the government.

Earlier in the day, al-Sadr postponed demonstrations that were planned by his supporters for Saturday after Iran-backed groups called for similar rallies the same day. That raised concerns about clashes between the two main Shiite rivals in Iraq.

“If you are betting on civil war, I am betting on civil peace. Iraqi blood is invaluable for me,” al-Sadr said in a statement calling for postponing the protests until further notice.

Iraq’s political impasse, now in its 10th month, is the longest in the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion reset the political order.

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