..BAGHDAD (AP) — A group of political dissidents created a new Iraqi opposition party Saturday, vowing to act as a check on the government as the prime minister warned that a push for regional autonomy could tear the country apart.
About 45 activists announced the creation of the Union of Patriotic Figures and described it as a secular political group of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds from about 27 mostly minor Iraqi parties.
"We will be an opposition to monitor both the government and the parliament," Mishaan al-Saadi, who unsuccessfully ran for election to parliament in 2010 on the secular but Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list, told reporters.
Iraq has been mired in a political crisis for months. It was galvanized mostly by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's pursuit of suspected terrorists and resulted in charges filed against hundreds of Sunnis, including a vice president. In turn, many Sunnis are threatening to break away from the central Shiite-led government and create their own state in Iraq.
Speaking at a conference of his Shiite political party, al-Maliki said that such a system would, at the least, freeze vital government services like electricity and security for the areas that break away. At worst, he said, the fractures could lead to fighting among Iraq's regions.
"The situation won't help. It might even be an entrance for internal battles," al-Maliki said in his speech in Karbala, a holy Shiite city 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Al-Maliki has struggled to avoid defections from the coalition government he formed after the 2010 elections, which failed to produce a clear winner.
Government instability linked to the political crisis and fears caused by the withdrawal of U.S. troops in December continues to give new impetus to insurgents.
Bombs ripped through three Iraqi cities on Saturday, killing one and injuring 11, according to local police and health officials.
Among the wounded were four policemen — three in Baghdad and one in the town of Jbala, about 60 miles (110 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
In the city of Fallujah, a former al-Qaida stronghold located 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, police said two car bombs killed an insurgent and wounded his accomplice as they planned to plant them across the city. Investigators described the two men as wanted terrorists.