Iraq parliament chief calls for govt to resign, after wave of violence

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi called on Monday for the cabinet to resign and for early elections to be held, as a seven-day wave of violence killed more than 230 people in Iraq.

The initiative is aimed at "national reconciliation and maintaining the gains of democracy," as well as "sparing the country from the spectre of civil war and sectarian strife," Mr Nujaifi's office said in a statement.

Mr Nujaifi, a Sunni and leading member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc which has long been at odds with Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, addressed the proposal to the heads of political parties represented in parliament.

He called for the current government to resign and be replaced by a smaller one made up of independent members who cannot stand in the next elections, for the electoral commission to prepare for early polls and for parliament to then be dissolved.

Mr Nujaifi's proposal came during a wave of violence that began on April 22 when security forces moved against Sunni anti-government protesters near the northern Sunni Arab town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that killed 53 people.

Subsequent unrest has killed dozens more and brought the seven-day death toll to more than 230 on Monday, raising fears of a return to all-out sectarian conflict.

So far this month, more than 450 people have been killed and over 1,150 wounded in violence across Iraq, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

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