Iraq agriculture minister quits over Sunni protest death

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s agriculture minister quit on Friday in response to the killing of a protester in the northern city of Mosul, where police said they fired shots into the air to disperse a crowd of stone-throwing Sunni Muslim demonstrators.

              Ezz al-Din al-Dawla is the second Iraqi minister to announce his resignation over the handling of Sunni protests, which have been staged daily against the Shi’ite led-government since December.

              “I announce my resignation before the Iraqi people and my people in Mosul because there is no way to continue any longer with a government that does not respond to my people’s demands,” said Dawla, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya Bloc, in a televised news conference.

Iraq’s finance minister told a crowd of Sunni protesters he was quitting earlier this month.

Thousands of Sunnis took to the streets again in the cities of Mosul, Samarra, Kirkuk and in Anbar province on Friday.

Their demands range from scrapping anti-terrorism laws they say are unfairly used against them, to overthrowing Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and tearing up the country’s constitution.

Sunni unrest is putting pressure on the country’s precarious sectarian balance and fuelling concerns the civil war in neighboring Syria could re-ignite Iraq’s own combustible Shi’ite-Sunni mix.