"In principle, we were to have announced the new government today, but last-minute details are preventing this," Jawad al-Maliki, the number two in the Shia Dawa party, led by prime minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jafari, said.

"Maybe the government will be announced tomorrow."

Al-Maliki added that Sunni Muslim politicians had dropped their demand to include former Baath Party members in Iraq's new cabinet in a bid to get more ministry posts.

The National Dialogue Council, a coalition of 10 different Sunni factions, had initially requested 16 cabinet seats. It submitted a list of candidates on Sunday that includes former Baathists, al-Maliki said.

And a Sunni delegation also met the Kurdish representatives on Monday as part of deliberations to discuss the outstanding differences on setting up a new government in Iraq.

Surge in violence

Against this backdrop of political parleys, the tide of violence sweeping Iraq shows no sign of abating.

 

On Monday, a number of foreigners were wounded when an explosion targeted a convoy of civilian vehicles near al-Rashid camp, southeast of Baghdad, Aljazeera reported.

 

"There is no doubt that political laxity has adversely affected the security situation"

General Wafiq al-Samarrai,
presidential s
ecurity adviser

Separately, a number of US soldiers were injured when an explosive device went off on a highway, west of the Iraqi capital. US helicopters were seen evacuating the wounded, Aljazeera said.

Meanwhile, speaking to Aljazeera from Baghdad, General Wafiq al-Samarrai, security adviser to Iraq's president, said the tardy government-formation process had contributed to the upsurge in violence.

"There is no doubt that political laxity has adversely affected the security situation," he said.

But he added the security situation was far better than what it was before the election of the president.

"It is essential to note that the security situation has improved since that event," he said.

Sunni demands

Earlier on Monday, Iyad al-Samarrai, assistant secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told Aljazeera that a meeting was held on Monday with the Kurdish alliance's negotiating team, which he said showed the Kurds' understanding of Sunni demands.

 

Al-Jafari is trying to include as
many Iraqi factions as possible

"We thank them [Kurds] for their understanding, but we need practical actions," he said.

 

According to al-Samarrai, "the main disagreement at the moment is related to the number of ministerial portfolios granted to Sunni Arabs, who have been absent from the elections".

 

Meeting Sunni demands was necessary "in order to form a national unity government", he said.

 

"The current suggested option is four ministries [to be granted to Sunni Arabs], and they may be raised to five.

 

"However, our demand is for at least seven ministries in order to achieve the required balance among the parties concerned."

 

The Iraqi Islamic Party leader added: "We had previously asked for berths no fewer than those got by the other alliances. Our demand was that Sunni Arabs should be granted nine seats in this government. The number has been reduced to seven after negotiations."

 

Conditional support

 

Al-Samarrai continued: "If our demands are met, we, the representatives of Sunni Arabs holding negotiations, will call on the whole Sunni Arab society to offer its political support to this government. We will announce our support to it.

 

"Our demand is for at least seven ministries in order to achieve the required balance among the parties concerned"

Iyad al-Samarrai,
Iraqi Islamic Party leader

"However, if our demands are not met, it will be difficult for us to agree on a nominal presence in the government."

Senior officials had earlier  suggested that al-Jafari could unveil a cabinet based on a broad coalition of Shia, Sunni and Kurds.

Negotiations on achieving a broad-based coalition have been going on for 12 weeks since the 30 January general elections, won by the majority Shia and the Kurds.

Senior officials suggest that al-Jafari has given up on attempts to include supporters of outgoing interim leader Iyad Allawi's party in the new cabinet.

Allawi omission

"I don't think they are likely to be included," al-Maliki said earlier.

Allawi's supporters are unlikely to
take part in the new cabinet

Interim Foreign Minister Hushyar Zibari, a Kurd who is expected to remain in his post, said: "It doesn't look like they will be taking part. We all tried to encourage them to participate, but in vain."

Allawi supporters said on Friday they would only join a new government if they were given five cabinet posts, including a deputy premiership.

"These are our demands and if they are not satisfied we cannot participate in the government," head of Allawi's negotiating team, Rasim al-Awadi, said.

Allawi's Iraqiya (Iraq) list took just 40 of the 275 seats in parliament in landmark elections on 30 January. The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) took 146 seats, while the main Kurdish bloc took 77.