US urges inclusive Iraq government


Barack Obama, the US president, has urged Iraqi leaders involved in a fragile power-sharing deal to aim for an “inclusive government” for the country.

The White House said in a statement on Friday that the president spoke in recent days with Iraqi politicians including Ayad Allawi, head of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, and would be speaking shortly with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister.

The statement said Obama stressed the need for Allawi, others from Iraqiya and all the winning blocs to hold leadership posts in the new government. Obama’s comments came a day after politicians belonging to the Iraqiya coalition left parliament just hours after apparently cementing a power-sharing agreement that would have seen a government formed after eight months of disagreement. The walkout was staged after newly elected speaker Osama al-Nujaifi declined the politicians’ request to vote on removing members names from a list of those associated with former ruler Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.In the new government, politicians returned Jalal Talabani to the largely ceremonial post of president and voted to make Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab member of the Iraqiya coalition, the new speaker of parliament during a late-night session on Thursday. As expected, Talabani nominated al-Maliki to serve another term. Al-Maliki now has a month to form a cabinet and present his government to parliament for a vote. The Iraqiya alliance, led by former prime minister and US favourite Iyad Allawi, won two more seats than Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition during the March 7 vote, but neither side won a majority, leading a political deadlock.
  ‘Lack of confidence’
The politicians claimed that the removal of three names of their senior colleagues from a list of alleged Baath party members kept by a “de-Baathification” committee was part of a broad power-sharing agreement that all sides in Iraq’s ongoing political dispute had agreed to, reported Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Baghdad. “There’s an atmosphere of a lack of confidence about the sessions,” she said. Al-Nujaifi, a member of the Iraqiya coalition who had just been elected by his colleagues as speaker of parliament, would not allow the de-Baathification vote to come before politicians chose a new president, as mandated by the constitution. He told parliament his loyalty was to Iraq’s government and no longer to the Iraqiya coalition. But after Iraqiya members continued to protest and began the walk out, Al-Nujaifi joined them and left his two deputies – also just elected – to lead the session, Rageh said. Allawi also walked out.
The power-sharing deal, clinched after three days of heated talks, stipulated that a Sunni hold the post of speaker, and that Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Kurdish coalition, and al-Maliki retain their posts. The agreement also established a statutory body to oversee security as a gesture to Allawi, who had held out for months to take the job from al-Maliki after his Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in the March 7 polls. Iraqiya has said its participation hinged on four conditions: a bill forming the security body, a committee examining cases against political detainees, codifying the power-sharing deal and annulling the bans against the three Iraqiya members. The bloc expressed hope it “would not be obliged to change its decision to participate in the political process if these conditions are not met.” On Thursday it appeared that Iraqiya, which had been opposing allowing al-Maliki to remain in power, had finally decided to join his government. Iraqiya won two more seats than al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition in the legislative election, but neither alliance had enough seats for a majority in parliament, forcing the factions into a negotiation process. Al-Maliki has 30 days to form his cabinet, and the next parliamentary meeting is scheduled for Saturday. Despite receding Shia-Sunni violence, the long parliamentary deadlock has fuelled tension as US forces prepare to withdraw in 2011. The backing of Iraqiya was seen as vital to prevent a resurgence of violence. A series of attacks on Christian targets across Baghdad on Wednesday stirred renewed fear in the minority community. The bomb and mortar blasts occurred just 10 days after a bloody siege at a Catholic cathedral in the capital that killed 52 people.

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