Former Iraqi prime minister and head of the al-Iraqiyya coalition Ayad Allawi called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resigns saying “Iraq does not belong to one person.”
The Sunni-backed Allawi called for “radical solutions” to what he said was the inability of Maliki's government to improve the economic, social and security conditions in Iraq.
On Friday, thousands of people rallied across Iraq against Prime Minister Maliki demanding the release of prisoners, the end of an anti-terrorism law and of what they described as policies of marginalization against the Sunnis.
Also, heartened by a possible shift in the Sunni-Shi'ite balance of power in the Middle East should the Assad’s regime collapse in Syria, Iraq's Sunnis are giving vent to the frustrations they have endured since the U.S.-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein and empowered majority Shi'ites.
Some waving Saddam-era Iraqi flags, protesters have echoed the chants of Arab uprisings that have brought down leaders in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen in the past two years.
“We will never relent. Enough of Sunnis living in Iraq like outsiders. This time it's do or die for us,” said Jamal Adham, a tribal leader from Saddam's former hometown of Tikrit.
Saddam Hussein’s Vice President Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday of seeking to implement an Iranian-backed agenda to divide Iraq.
In a video-taped message obtained by Al Arabiya, the fugitive ad-Douri -- who was confirmed as the head of Iraq’s Baath Party following the execution of Saddam on Dec. 30, 2006, said he was speaking from the central Babil Governorate on the anniversary of the Founding of the Iraqi Army.
Ad-Douri expressed his support for the thousands of people who have been demonstrating in various Iraqi provinces for two weeks against Prime Minister al-Maliki.
“As you see today, from scenes of constructed conflict between symbols of the Persian-Safawi operation, it is a clear plan to destroy Iraq and annex it to Iran,” ad-Douri said.
Demonstrations have been given a cross-sectarian boost in recent days thanks to public displays of support by powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who joined in Friday prayers at a major Sunni mosque in Baghdad, symbolically backing rallies against a premier with whom he has often clashed.
Demonstrators gathered at the Abu Hanifa mosque in the mostly-Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, but were barred by security forces from leaving the compound to rally on the street, an AFP correspondent said.
The protesters held up banners calling for a mass prisoner release, stronger human rights provisions in Iraq’s prisons, and a repeal of current anti-terror legislation.
They have called for the release of prisoners they say were detained because of their Sunni background, and an end to the alleged misuse of anti-terror legislation by the Shiite-led authorities against their community.
“Baghdad, free, free! Iran, go away!” they shouted, a reference to their belief that Maliki’s government is beholden to Iraq’s Shiite neighbor Iran.
The premier on Friday called for protesters and security forces to act with restraint, after earlier this week warning demonstrators that the state could intervene to end rallies.