One of Iraq's three deputy presidents has stepped down amid signs of divisions in the coalition government formed by Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions.
Reuters reports that the resignation of Adel Abdul-Mahdi [Adel Abd al-Mahdi] came as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fends off critics who say he has not delivered on power-sharing promises since forming a fragile multi-sectarian government in December after nine months of political deadlock.
Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), said Abdul-Mahdi, a senior Shi'ite politician in ISCI, had presented his resignation but it had yet to be approved by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.
"We were supposed to present this resignation before, but the president was abroad, so once he came back the resignation was submitted to him," Hakim said.
According to Aswat al-Iraq, the President will not accept the resignation until he has met with Abdul-Mahdi to discuss the reasons for stepping down.
Abdul-Mahdi, a Shi'ite, was one of three deputies appointed just weeks ago by parliament to the government led by Maliki.
Hakim said he hoped the resignation would prompt others to follow suit to reduce the size of the government. There have been divisions among the Shi'ite allies.
The vice president's post is largely symbolic as it carries no real power but it was a part of the power sharing deal between Iraq's political factions to form the government.
Abdul-Mahdi's departure is unlikely to pressure the coalition, which still has the backing of most other Shi'ite blocs in the government, including the powerful Sadrist bloc with 39 seats in parliament.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance, led by former premier Iyad Allawi, also criticises Maliki for failing to form a national advisory body Allawi was meant to head and delaying the naming of key posts such as the defence and interior ministries.
(Sources: Reuters, Aswat al-Iraq)