Middle East

Dust storm strikes blow to Iraq parliament session

Iraqis who fled violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, walk at the Bahrka camp that hosts displaced people, 10 km West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on July 12, 2014. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED

ARBIL, Iraq: Deep divisions among Iraqi politicians pose major challenges for the government formation process, but Sunday, another was added to the mix: the weather.

Parliament was due to meet under heavy pressure to make progress on forming a new government to help face a sweeping jihadist-led militant offensive that has overrun swathes of the country.

But a lawmaker said that 25 Kurdish MPs were stranded in Arbil, the capital of their autonomous northern region, by one of the periodic dust storms that ground air traffic in Iraq.

"We are waiting for weather conditions to improve," MP Arafat Karam told AFP.

A quorum can be reached without them, but their absence could further dim the chances of a breakthrough in Sunday's session.

Attendance is a perennial problem for the Iraqi legislature, with parliament not even able to reach quorum for an emergency session called at the height of the militant offensive last month.

And the previous session of parliament earlier this month ended in mayhem, with MPs trading barbs and so few returning after a break aimed at cooling tempers that the quorum was lost.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov has warned Iraqi politicians that "failure to move forward on electing a new speaker, a new president and a new government risks plunging the country into chaos".

"It will only serve the interests of those who seek to divide the people of Iraq and destroy their chances for peace and prosperity," he said.





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