Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, is in Irbil for talks with Kurdish leaders in his latest bid to build a coalition government and remain in his post as prime minister.
Al-Maliki will meet with Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, to "discuss ways to solve problems and form a new government," according to Barzai's spokesman.
Iraqi politicians have spent more than five months haggling over the next government, with no resolution in sight.
Maliki called the delay a "problem" in a recent interview, but denied that the political stalemate was having a negative impact on security or the economy.
"Yes, I am part of the problem, but I didn't create the problem," he said in an interview with the Reuters news agency. "I want to solve the problem."
No second term?
Al-Maliki wants to serve a second term as premier, but his chances diminished greatly last week when the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), one of Iraq's two main Shia blocs, suspended talks with his State of Law coalition.
Ammar al-Hakim, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq - one of the largest parties in the INA - said he would not negotiate with State of Law unless it nominated someone other than al-Maliki for the premiership.
Moqtada al-Sadr's party, the other main heavyweight in the INA, has already rejected a second term for al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki told Reuters he was now in "serious and strong talks" with the rival Iraqiya bloc, led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi. Iraqiya won the largest number of seats in the March parliamentary election.
"We don't want to exclude them from coalition formation. They should come and take their share if we form the government," he said.
The INA, meanwhile, said it was willing to talk with any bloc that "displays flexibility," suggesting it would be willing to negotiate with Allawi's coalition.
Despite al-Maliki's assurances, security in Iraq is indeed deterioriating: Iraqi ministries reported that 535 people were killed in July, making it the deadliest month since May 2008.
Sistani is a revered figure who rarely intervenes in Iraqi politics [AFP]
US officials say privately that they are concerned the political deadlock will lead to deepening insecurity.
The US magazine Foreign Policy reported last week that Barack Obama, the US president, sent a letter to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq, asking him to get involved in the process.
A source described the letter to Foreign Policy as "a request for his intervention in the political situation to use his influence with the Shia groups and get them to compromise."
Al-Sistani is a widely respected figure in Iraq. He rarely intervenes in politics, although his spokesman hinted earlier this summer that the cleric might become involved if negotiations dragged on.