Iraqi leaders urged to prevent sectarian tensions

Iraq on the verge of plunging into a sectarian conflict

ISTANBUL (Turkey) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on political and religious leaders in Iraq on Tuesday to stem sectarian tensions in the country.
"The last thing we want to see in Iraq is a fight between brothers," Erdogan said in televised remarks in a weekly address to his lawmakers in parliament.
"I call on all our brothers in Iraq, regardless of their persuasion and ethnic roots, to listen to their conscience and hearts," Erdogan said.
"I also invite the Iraqi government, religious leaders, community leaders and countries trying to influence Iraq to behave with consciousness and responsibility," he said.
"Countries that are fanning sectarian divisions and conflicts will be responsible for each drop of blood that is shed," Erdogan added, without naming them.
He said a new conflict in Iraq would "disappoint" not only Iraq but the entire Islamic world.
Attacks across Iraq on Monday, many of which targeted Shiites, killed 17 people and wounded dozens, including 15 Afghans visiting the country for a religious commemoration.
Gun and bomb attacks in Baghdad and north Iraq on Tuesday killed eight people, including an army colonel and three schoolboys.
The unrest comes amid a political standoff in Iraq pitting the Shiite-led government against the main Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc, which is part of the government.
Late on Tuesday, Erdogan telephoned his counterpart Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and expressed his concerns, the Anatolia news agency reported.
"Democracy will take a beating if the doubts being felt by partners in the coalition government transform into animosity," Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying.
In December, Iraqi authorities issued a warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is charged with running a death squad. Hashemi is part of the Iraqiya bloc.
Hashemi, who was last reported to have been holed up in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, acknowledged his guards may have carried out attacks, but he has steadfastly denied any involvement and refused to come to Baghdad to face trial.