KUWAIT, March 25 (Reuters) - Qatar signalled its irritation on Tuesday with Iraq's accusation that it backed insurgents fighting Baghdad's rule, saying it was not appropriate for countries which failed to preserve national unity to accuse other Arab states of supporting "terrorism".
The comments by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, were the first official Qatari reaction after Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, this month accused Doha and Riyadh of funding insurgency.
Maliki's relationships with Sunni-led Gulf Arab states are strained, and they in turn see him as too close to Shi'ite Iran.
"It is about time for Iraq to get out of the cycle of rifts and violence and that cannot be achieved by sidelining segments of the population, or accusing it of terrorism, if they demanded equality and participation," Sheikh Tamim said.
"It is not appropriate that those who fail to preserve national unity to accuse other Arab countries of supporting terrorism in their country," he told fellow heads of state and government at the opening session of an Arab summit in Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia has already rejected Maliki's assertion this month that it and Qatar were funding Sunni insurgents fighting in Iraq's western Anbar province.
The United Arab Emirates summoned Iraq's ambassador to protest against the accusations, while Bahrain called them "irresponsible".
Iraqi forces have been fighting insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Anbar's two main cities since the beginning of the year.
Violence in Iraq has worsened in the past year, with ISIL launching a particularly devastating bombing campaign mid-2013. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Amena Bakr; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by William Maclean and Louise Ireland)