BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday they would call him to parliament for questioning in a second attempt to force a vote of no confidence as the Shi'ite leader faces Sunni Muslim protests.
The parliamentary measure and popular unrest are turning into a major test for Maliki, a Shi'ite nationalist whom many Sunni leaders accuse of marginalising their sect and amassing power just a year after the last U.S. troops left.
Maliki's rivals among Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish blocs remain sharply divided, and failed last year to win required approval from the president or support in the 325-member Council of Representatives for a vote of no confidence.
Lawmakers collected more than the 25 signatures required to call Maliki to appear in parliament to be questioned on alleged violations of the constitution and of a power-sharing agreement.
"The first step is questioning him and we presented a request today," said Sunni-backed Iraqiya party lawmaker Jaber al-Jaberi. "The next stage will be a vote of no confidence if we can get enough votes."
A spokesman for Maliki did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the motion.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Sunni strongholds across Iraq for more than two weeks, increasing fear that turmoil in neighbouring Syria may help tip Iraq back into the broad sectarian violence it suffered in 2006-2007.
Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alistair Lyon