By John Lee.
Iraq's finance minister Rafaie Al-Esawi [Rafe Al-Issawi, Rafie al-Issawi] (pictured) has announced his resignation on Friday morning, according to a report from Reuters.
Addressing crowds of Sunni Muslim protesters in the Sunni heartland of Anbar, he said:
"I came today in order to announce my resignation from this government in front of you ... More than 70 days of demonstrations and this government hasn't fulfilled our people's demands ... It doesn't honor me to be part of a sectarian government. I decided to stay with my people."
It was Maliki's arrest of Esawi's bodyguards in December that initially sparked the protests.
Iraqi authorities said Esawi's bodyguards had confessed to involvement in assassinations carried out in coordination with security men employed by Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who fled into exile a year ago and was later sentenced to death in absentia for terrorism.
Esawi was once a leader of armed Islamist group Hamas al-Iraq, which was active in Anbar.