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BAGHDAD, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Iraqi Sunni Muslim and Kurdish
ministers boycotted a cabinet session on Tuesday to show support
for protests that threaten Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki's fragile cross-sectarian government, lawmakers and a
government source said.
Thousands of protesters have demonstrated and blocked a key
highway in Iraq's Sunni provinces for more than two weeks to
challenge Maliki, a leader many Sunnis feel has marginalised
their community a year after the last U.S. troops pulled out.
Sunni-backed Iraqiya party lawmakers said their ministers
stayed away from the cabinet in support of the protests sparked
in late December when security forces arrested bodyguards of
Sunni Finance Minister Rafaie al-Esawi.
"They made a decision to boycott the session today," Iraqiya
lawmaker Jaber al-Jaberi told Reuters. "They don't see a
response from the government to the demands of the protesters...
or to accepting power-sharing."
Alaa Talabani, a Kurdish lawmaker, said party leaders had
also asked Kurdish ministers to stay away. A senior government
source at the meeting confirmed Sunni and Kurdish ministers had
missed the Council of Ministers session.
Violence and bombings are down sharply since the height of
Iraq's conflict, but the government, split among majority
Shi'ites, minority Sunnis and ethnic Kurds, has been deadlocked
over power-sharing since it was formed in December 2010.