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Iraq's Sadr bloc in Bush protest
The political bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr has suspended its participation in Iraq's national unity government in protest at the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's meeting with the US president.
Al-Maliki is due to meet George Bush in Amman, the Jordanian capital, on Wednesday evening.
A statement by 30 Sadrist parliamentarians, including five cabinet members, said Bush's talks with al-Maliki were a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights".
The group handed the statement to reporters in Baghdad's Shia district of Sadr City, where a series of bombings last week killed more than 200 people in the deadliest attack in Iraq since the US-led invasion.
The statement read: "At a time when Iraqis are suffering and the popular and national desire yearns to get rid of the occupation and the forces of darkness and takfiris [Sunni radicals] that kill without distinction... the Sadr bloc decided to suspend its participation."
The Sadrists' move to suspend their participationi in al-Maliki's fragile coalition government further complicates the two-day series of meetings between the Iraqi leader and Bush.
Bush hopes to use his meeting with al-Maliki to find a way to reduce the sectarian violence sweeping Iraq.
He also wants Iraqi security forces to play a greater role in combatting the Sunni insurgents in the country's Western Anbar province, and thereby allow US troops to withdraw.
In recent days Bush has vowed not to pull troops out "before the mission is complete", rejecting talk that Iraq had plunged into civil war - a term adopted by several US news outlets.
However US misgivings over al-Maliki's leadership have been disclosed in a memo written by Stephen Hadley, a national security adviser, and which were published by the New York Times.
According to the 8 November document, Hadley told Bush that al-Maliki's leadership had been weak.
It read: "His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change.
"But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action".
The report advocated a possible shake-up of his seven-month-old national unity government.