One of Iraq's three vice presidents resigned Monday in an apparent attempt to distance himself from what is seen as an increasingly dysfunctional government.
Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, could not be reached for comment. No formal reason was given for his resignation, after four years in office.
Abdul-Mahdi had threatened for months to leave his post. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, finally accepted his resignation Monday.
"We deeply regret having to accept the resignation of our friend and brother," Talabani said in the statement, adding that he attempted for "many weeks" to persuade Abdul-Mahdi to stay.
"He was with us during the struggle against the dictatorship and we worked together to achieve a free, democratic and federal Iraq," Talabani said.
Talabani spokesman Naseer al-Ani said Abdul-Mahdi was encouraged by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party leaders to step down and save the cash-strapped government the cost of his annual salary of $108,000. But advisers to Abdul-Mahdi privately have said the vice president feared he would be blamed for being part of a failed government should its leaders be ousted by frustrated Iraqis.
Bickering among Iraq's political leaders has kept the government, seated in December, from appointing new defense, interior and national security ministers. Critics say the delay Iraq's stability.