President Jalal Talabani has called for a national conference, scheduled to take place by the end of January, to discuss the political issues that have arisen since the withdrawal of US troops on 31 December 2011.

Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and head of the House of Representatives Osama Najafi will lead discussions concerning the arrest warrant issued for Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who has been accused of funding terrorist activities and the possible dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Sale al-Mutlaq, who accused Al-Maliki of being a dictator. Al-Hashemi is still in hiding in the Kurdistan region in the north of the country. Members of the Sunni Iraqyia-bloc continue to boycott the cabinet and parliament over Al-Hashemi’s arrest warrant.

The leaders will discuss ways to bring stability back to the country. Recent attacks on Shia pilgrims have further increased political tensions between the parties.

Shia worshippers in the southern city of Basra in Iraq were the target of another bomb attack on 14 January, killing more than 50 people. It follows on from a series of attacks on Shia pilgrims during their holy month of Ashura.

As a response, the Iraqi government increased security for the pilgrims in the Southern part of the country and Karbala, the main sight of the pilgrimage.