* Iraq nettled by Erdogan's criticism
* Iraqi political crisis spooks Turkey
By Barry Malone
BAGHDAD, April 23 Iraq, locked in a public row
with neighbouring Turkey, has summoned Ankara's ambassador in
Baghdad to protest at critical remarks by Turkish Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
The envoy, Younis Demerer, heard the Iraqi complaint on
Sunday after several days of charge and counter-charge.
Erdogan accused his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki on
Thursday of stoking conflict between Shi'ite Muslims, Sunni
Muslims and Kurds through "self-centred" behaviour.
Maliki fired back that Turkey was becoming a "hostile state"
with a sectarian agenda, saying it was meddling in Iraqi affairs
and trying to establish regional "hegemony".
Erdogan returned to the fray on Saturday, saying: "If we
respond to Mr. Maliki, we give him the opportunity to show off."
Analysts say mainly Sunni Turkey is worried that growing
tensions in Iraq and violence in their mutual neighbour Syria
may lead to a wider Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in the region.
Erdogan's government has also recently forged close ties
with Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish
region, which is embroiled in a row with the Baghdad government
over claims to the city of Kirkuk and the region's oil.
"(Foreign ministry undersecretary) Mr. Labeed Abbawi
acquainted the Turkish Ambassador with the Iraqi government's
intense protest against the recent statements," the Iraqi
foreign ministry said on its website.
"Undersecretary Abbawi expressed hope that the Turkish
government will stop giving statements that affect Iraq's
sovereignty and internal affairs."
Erdogan has criticised Maliki several times since sectarian
tensions flared in Iraq in December when the Shi'ite-led
government tried to remove Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh
al-Mutlaq and sought an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President
Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads.
Hashemi fled Baghdad and has since met Erdogan in Istanbul.
The rift between Baghdad and the Kurds worsened this month
when the Kurdistan Regional Government said it was halting oil
exports because the central government was not paying oil firms
operating in the north.
Iraq is Turkey's second largest trading partner after
Germany, with trade reaching $12 billion last year, more than
half of which was with the Kurdish region.
(Editing by Serena Chaudhry and Alistair Lyon)