A suicide attack killed five people at the interior ministry in Baghdad as a key political bloc called for early elections in a worsening standoff that has stoked sectarian tensions.
The blast, which left dozens wounded on Monday, came just days after the capital was struck by its deadliest violence in more than four months.
The parliamentary coailtion loyal to anti-US Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said it backed the dissolution of parliament and early elections in a dispute that has seen Iraq's Sunni vice president accused of running a death squad and a deputy prime minister call the government a "dictatorship".
Earlier this week, Joe Biden, the US vice president, urged dialogue between Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences.
In Monday's attack, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into the interior ministry compound when guards opened the main gates to allow electrical maintenance workers through, a ministry official said.
At least five people were killed and 39 wounded, security and health officials said, including at least two policemen killed and 14 wounded.
The blast came after a wave of attacks across Baghdad on Thursday killed 60 people Violence in the provinces the same day claimed another seven lives. It was the deadliest day in Iraq since mid-August.
Baha al-Araji, the Sadrist parliamentary chief, said in a statement that his bloc in Iraq's Council of Representatives wanted to "dissolve parliament and repeat elections".
An official at the movement's headquarters in the southern city of Najaf said Araji's statement "represents all of the bloc, and it represents the opinion of the bloc".
The call comes after authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tareq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president, on charges he ran a death squad. Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, has also called for his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlak to be sacked.
Hashimi denies the accusations, and Mutlak has decried the premier as a dictator "worse than Saddam Hussein".
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, to which both Hashimi and Mutlak belong, has boycotted the cabinet and parliament.
Hashimi, now staying at the official guesthouse of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the country's autonomous Kurdish region, told the AFP news agency in an interview on Sunday he would not go to Baghdad to stand trial and raised the prospect of fleeing Iraq.
Asked if he would return to Baghdad to face trial, Hashimi said: "Of course not." The 69-year-old attributed his refusal to travel to the capital to poor security and politicisation of the justice system.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Ankara will not turn Hashimi away if he requests asylum, but that he should stay in Iraq.
Biden, Washington's pointman on Iraq, has made a flurry of calls to Iraqi leaders this week, urging them to mend their fences.
In calls to Maliki on Sunday and Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday, Biden "exchanged views ... on the current political climate in Iraq and reiterated our support for ongoing efforts to convene a dialogue among Iraqi political leaders," the White House said in a statement.
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|William A. Cook|