Iraq's interim Deputy President Rowsh Shaways said on Sunday talks between the Shia alliance that won landmark elections and Kurds who came second would resume after parliament's opening session on Wednesday to hammer out differences.
Interim parliamentary speaker Fuad Masum, a Kurd from the northern city of Arbil, said the alliance would continue their talks in Baghdad and expand on some of the more important points.
The parliament is due to meet on Wednesday, more than six weeks after polls that gave many in Iraq hope that a new authority would clamp down on attacks, car bombs and execution-style killings.
There is little evidence to suggest a calming of the situation. Four bodies, three Iraqi soldiers and one policeman, were found on a farm in Latifiya, 70km south of the capital. An army officer said they had been shot in the head and chest two days ago. Their hands had been tied.
Many Iraqis blame politicians, for whom they say they risked their lives to vote in the 30 January election, for prolonging a political vacuum while violence spirals.
Post election, Iraqi Sunnis have
little political representation
Officials said earlier that the two sides had yet to agree on how to distribute top government posts and on extending the Kurds' autonomous region in the north.
Ahmad Chalabi, a top member of the Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, returned empty-handed on Saturday from a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan to save the proposed Kurdish-Shia alliance which has the two-thirds majority needed to form the government.
"The meetings have collapsed. There was no deal," an aide to Chalabi disclosed.
Kurdish politicians were defiant, rebuffing the Shia alliance's attempts to blame them for the deadlock.
"They want to lay the responsibility for the political equation solely on the Kurdish side," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd, told Al Arabiya television.
"We are willing to sacrifice the presidency to the Shia if the Shia sacrifice the premiership to a Sunni," Salih said in a comment laced with irony as the Shia bloc insists that as election winner it should nominate the prime minister.
"We are willing to sacrifice the presidency to the Shia if the Shia sacrifice the premiership to a Sunni"
The Kurds, who number about three million out of Iraq's 27 million people, want the presidency for Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and a top ministry - interior, finance or defence.
They also want their share of oil revenue to rise to 25% from 17% now, and inclusion of Kirkuk in the Kurdistan federal region.
The stand-off plays into the hands of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose cabinet could now remain in a caretaker role until a general election due at the end of the year.
Aljazeera correspondent Ahmad al-Zawiti reported the delegates as saying talks were still under way and that reports by some agencies that talks had failed were incorrect.
He said Masum had brought Baghdad a draft of the agreement from Baghdad and not the agreement itself to be submitted to the Kurdish leadership.
The UIA team had taken the same draft to be handed over to their leaders.
Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the election and have little representation in the new assembly.
US troop tactics have sparked
Mainly Sunni fighters have staged ever bolder attacks on Shia and official targets in their campaign to topple the US-backed government and stall efforts to form a new cabinet.
In the deadliest recent attack, a bomber struck a Shia mosque during a funeral on Thursday, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens more.
On Saturday, a car bomb at a checkpoint in Sharqat south of Mosul killed six Iraqi soldiers. Regional army commander Lieutenant-Colonel Talal Muhammad said on Sunday the army had arrested a Yemeni in connection with the attack.
In Mosul, a US soldier was killed by small arms fire on Friday, the American military said, and on Saturday a roadside bomb killed two US contractors south of Baghdad.
The counter-insurgency tactics used by US led forces have sparked anger in Iraq and caused strains with some key allies.
Bulgaria said on Saturday US forces had admitted they broke their rules of engagement when a unit fired on a Bulgarian patrol on 4 March, killing a soldier.
A US military spokesman in Baghdad said he could not comment until the investigation is complete.
At least a further 19 Iraqis were killed in violence over the past 48 hours, security sources said on Sunday, as 12 corpses that had been rotting on a farm for a month were found by soldiers south of Baghdad..