BAGHDAD  - Ministers from Iraq’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc ended a cabinet boycott and returned to work on Tuesday, after a political crisis in December that had triggered sectarian bloodshed and threatened to shatter the country’s fragile government.“The prime minister welcomed the return of the ministers to accomplish the work of the government,” the prime ministers spokesman Ali Mussawi told AFP.The move will do little however to heal long-standing, deep tensions between Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs.As the OPEC member country’s leaders turn to daily business, including getting a delayed 2012 budget bill through parliament, a national conference being planned to reconcile rival groups.“All Iraqiya ministers attended the meeting and the prime minister welcomed their return,” cabinet secretary Ali al-Alaq said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.The crisis began after U.S. troops withdrew in mid-December, when Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government moved against two top Sunni officials - seeking the arrest of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and the removal of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.Authorities have charged Hashemi, a Sunni Iraqiya member, with running a death squad.He has been hiding out in the autonomous Kurdistan region in north Iraq, and authorities there have so far declined to hand him over.Iraqiya responded by boycotting parliament and cabinet meetings, and a string of attacks against Shi’ite targets then prompted fears of a return to the worst levels of sectarian slaughter that broke out after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.More than 450 people have been killed in attacks since the crisis erupted, government figures and a Reuters tally showed, while in January alone, more than double the number of people were killed compared with a year ago.Iraqiya ended its boycott of parliament last week, bringing the crisis off the boil. Violence on Iraq’s streets has ebbed since then. Several of Iraqiya’s eight ministers, however, had refused to go back to work until Tuesday.The finance, science and education ministers had continued their boycott to demand Mutlaq’s return to government. Mutlaq complained publicly of Maliki’s concentration of power, likening him to a dictator.TensionsAlthough the political crisis has eased, there is little sign that disputes underlying it have been resolved, further calling into question the sustainability of a delicate power-sharing agreement between Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish blocs.Divisions have persisted since the government was formed a year ago and they continue to hinder progress on vital issues such as passing a law that will govern the distribution of oil revenues, which are the lifeblood of Iraq’s economy.“We felt we must return to the parliament as the problems should be solved there, and to the cabinet,” Iraqiya lawmaker Arshad Salihi said. “There are many important issues to discuss, and it is not possible to do that in the absence of some sides.”Hashemi, who denies government charges that his office ran a death squad, is still holed up in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Mutlaq was also away from Baghdad on Tuesday, meeting officials in Turkey.Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, long persecuted under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, has steadily grown in influence since the U.S.-led invasion almost nine years ago.Maliki has forged closer ties with his country’s Shi’ite neighbor and former foe Iran, causing concern among Iraq’s Sunni neighbors from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, which are seeking to counter the Islamic Republic’s regional influence.Iraq’s Shi’ite prime minister, a former Arabic teacher and shrewd political player, says his moves against the two high-ranking Sunni members of his government are legal, but Sunnis worry he is consolidating power at their expense.Disagreement within Iraqiya over how to react in the standoff with Maliki’s party highlighted the deep divisions within the Sunni-backed bloc, which appear to have enabled Maliki to strengthen his own position.