Iraq battled a militant assault on key city Ramadi yesterday while accusing the Kurds of seizing oil fields, further dashing hopes of political unity to save the country from its feared break-up.
Upping the ante, Iraq's foreign minister yesterday said the Kurdish political bloc will no longer take part in Iraq's national government in protest against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's accusation that Kurds were harboring Islamist insurgents in their capital, .
"We have suspended our government business," said minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is a Kurd.
Zebari told Reuters that Kurdish ministers were now suspending their day-to-day involvement the foreign, trade, migration and health ministries and the deputy premiership.
Zebari said the Kurds will continue to attend the parliament, elected on April 30, which is seeking to form a new government in the face of a Sunni insurgency that has seized large sections of northern and western Iraq.
The militant push to take Anbar's provincial capital comes two days before a planned parliamentary session meant to revive flagging efforts to replace the caretaker government in power since April elections.
Sunni militants have captured areas west of Ramadi since the fighting began Thursday afternoon, killing 11 police, bombing a police station and taking control of another.
As the battle for Ramadi raged, Iraq's oil ministry accused the country's autonomous Kurdish region of grabbing key northern oil fields in the Kirkuk and Bey Hassan .
Kurd Peshmerga fighters have moved into stretches of disputed northern areas vacated by Iraqi forces during the initial militant offensive, and regional president Massud Barzani has said they will stay there.
Maliki has accused Barzani of exploiting the chaos created by the jihadist Islamic State (IS), and said the region was hosting militants involved in the offensive.
That claim drew derision from Barzani's office, which shot back Thursday that Maliki "has become hysterical and has lost his balance". Saying Maliki had "destroyed the country," it demanded he "apologise to the Iraqi people and step down".
The escalating war of words between Maliki and the Kurds has already cast a pall over the parliamentary session slated for tomorrow. So far, international calls for feuding politicians to come together to face the militant offensive have gone unheeded.