|Shahristani replaces Zebari as Iraq’s FM||
Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani replaced Hoshiyar Zebari as the country’s foreign minister on Friday after Zebari and other Kurdish ministers in the cabinet pulled out of the central government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appointed Shahristani to the job, Alsumaria reported.
Shahristani, an Iraqi politician who served in different cabinet posts, is a senior member of the State of Law alliance which won the majority of the votes in the recent parliamentary election in Iraq.
He was previously the deputy speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly under the Iraqi transitional Government and was considered for the post of prime minister in both the current government and the interim government.
The Kurdish political bloc will no longer take part in Iraq's national government in protest against Maliki's accusation that Kurds were harboring Islamist insurgents in their capital, the foreign minister said on Friday.
"We have suspended our government business," said Zebari, who is a Kurd.
The Kurds said on Thursday they were cancelling their participation in cabinet meetings. 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.
Maliki said on Wednesday the Kurds were allowing insurgents of the Islamic State (ISIL), an offshoot of al-Qaeda, to base themselves in Arbil.
Meanwhile, Iraq's oil ministry accused Kurdish peshmerga fighters of seizing oil wells at two key northern fields near the disputed city of Kirkuk Friday.
"The oil ministry strongly condemns the seizure and control of crude oil (wells) in the Kirkuk and Bey Hassan oil fields this morning by groups of Kurdish peshmerga forces," the ministry said in a statement, AFP reported.
Authorities in Baghdad also halted cargo flights to the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Sulaimaniya, the top aviation official said on Thursday, in an escalating row between the central government and Kurdish leaders.
"At present we stopped the shipment of cargo to both Erbil and Sulaimaniya until further notice," the head of Iraq's civil aviation authority Nasser Bandar told Reuters. He said passenger flights were unaffected.
Fighters must respect all people's rights: Sistani
Iraq's top Shia religious authority Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged fighters Friday to respect the rights of all Iraqis, regardless of sect or politics, after an escalation in apparent sectarian killings in recent weeks.
"We would like to stress to all our armed forces and those volunteers who have joined them ... the necessity of strict and full commitment in taking care of the rights of all the people," according to the text of a sermon delivered by a Sistani aide, Reuters reported.
Fighters should "not ...transgress against any innocent citizen no matter their sectarian or ethnic affiliation or whatever their political stance," aide Abdul-Mehdi al-Karbala'i told worshippers at the Imam Hussein shrine in the Shia holy city of Karbala.
Sistani's sermons are always delivered by an aide.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis responded to a call from Sistani on June 13 to take up arms against a Sunni insurgency that is raging in the country's north and west.
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