Iraq parliament convenes first session

Iraq's new parliament has concluded its first meeting since the January election without reaching an agreement on a government line-up or electing a three-member presidential council and a speaker.

    Al-Yawar may remain president until a government is formed

    The parliament ended its session after 90 minutes on Wednesday, without giving a date for when it would reconvene as political parties are locked in hard negotiations over a coalition deal to form a government.

    The Shia Islamic alliance that won 140 seats and the Kurdish coalition that came second with 75 seats are deadlocked over a government in negotiations that have dragged on for weeks.

    But rival blocs say they expect to reach an agreement within the next few days.

    The parliament's 275 members, elected during 30 January elections, convened in an auditorium amid tight security in the heavily guarded Green Zone, with US helicopter gunships hovering overhead.

    Plea for unity

    Several Baghdad streets were closed and traffic restricted to try to thwart anti-government attacks, but fighters fired a rocket or mortar barrage into the fortified Green Zone compound before the meeting began.

    "We have to know that there are no winners or losers among us"

    Ghazi al-Yawar,
    Iraqi Interim President

    During the session, interim President Ghazi al-Yawar called on all Iraqis to unify their ranks.
    "We have to know that there are no winners or losers among us. We either all win or we all lose," al-Yawar said. "Let's unify our goals, irrespective of the means."

    The leader of the Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, cleric Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, said his coalition hoped to "form a government whose motto is to serve the Iraqi people, a government of national unity and reconciliation".

    Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who will probably become Iraq's next president, said deputies "all have a duty to achieve real national unity".

    Tentative deal

    Current Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and al-Yawar, both of whom will keep their jobs until a new government is agreed on, told the assembly the process had to be be inclusive and involve Sunni Arabs, who have little parliamentary representation after many of them stayed away from the polls.

    The parliamentarians met in the
    capital's secure Green Zone

    There is tentative agreement that Ibrahim Jafari of the Shia Dawa party will be prime minister and Kurdish leader Talabani will be president, with al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab, as a probable candidate for the job of parliament speaker.

    According to Iraq's interim constitution, parliament must agree on a president and two vice presidents by a two-thirds majority.

    These officials will then appoint a prime minister.

    This means there must be agreement between two-thirds of the 275 assembly members on the shape of the government.   

    As well as agreeing on a government, the assembly must
    oversee the writing of a permanent constitution.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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