End to Iraqi impasse nears with Maliki to stay premier

End to Iraqi impasse nears with Maliki to stay premier

Baghdad (dpa) - Eight months of Iraqi political deadlock appeared to be coming to an end Thursday after a complex agreement was reached between parties, paving the way for the formation of a new government.

The deal would see Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, keep his job as prime minister and convene a new cabinet after the three-day Eid al-Adha Muslim festivities, which end November 18. Also, a Sunni Muslim would be speaker of parliament and a Kurdish leader was expected to stay on as president.

"Al-Maliki will officially assume his role as head of the Iraqi government after the Eid holidays," government spokesman Ali al- Dabbagh said on the regional news network al-Arabiya.

Most of the 325 elected members of parliament are set to convene in the evening to first appoint a speaker, setting in motion the final steps towards the tentative power-sharing deal between Iraq's multiple political, religious and ethnic groups.

The session was postponed three times on Thursday, and was not set to take place until the evening. A large number of parliamentarians said they were busy outside the main chamber hall, engaged in meetings on last-minute issues, including ministerial posts.

It would be only the second session of parliament since the March elections, with the first session in July lasting less than 20 minutes.

Leading politicians from all major parties at a meeting late Wednesday in Baghdad appeared to have agreed to form a broad-based administration headed by al-Maliki, from the Shiite-led Dawa party.

"The presidency of Iraq will belong to a Kurd," Massoud Barzani, president of the northern autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, said in a televised address on Thursday morning. The post will likely be filled by incumbent Jalal Talabani.

Sources in the capital said former prime minister Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqiya List, the largest party in parliament with 91 seats, would get the foreign minister's portfolio and most likely grab the role of speaker of parliament.

Allawi himself, according to officials, would take head a national council on strategy, a role which leaders were working behind the scenes to define. Reports say US President Barack Obama asked Allawi to take the job and agree to end the country's power struggle.

The Iraqiya List has nominated high-profile Sunni member Osama al- Nujaifi to take the post of speaker, party spokesperson Haidar al- Mula said according to regional news network al-Jazeera.

Once a speaker is chosen, the parliament can move toward naming a new president, who would then have the formal job of appointing a prime minister, according to the country's constitution.

Al-Maliki, who heads the broader Shiite-majority State of Law coalition, which won 89 of the 325 seats in elections in March, exuded confidence on Wednesday.

"We will not only experience the birth of a new government but even the beginning of the rebuilding of the Iraqi state," he said.

However, al-Iraqiya had hoped its leader Allawi, a secular Shiite, would get the premiership and there were signs of dissatisfaction within its ranks as details of the power-sharing deal were released.

"We are the largest faction, according to the election results, and if the others have divided the positions among themselves, that would mean that democracy in Iraq is over," said Abdul Qadir Mahdi, an Iraqiya List parliamentarian.

The party's leadership was said to be meeting to discuss its final position on the power-sharing deal.

Iraq set a world record with its 249 days of failing to form a government.

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