BEIRUT

Middle East

Iraq fails to form government again

Shiites volunteers, loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, take positions during a military advance in areas under the control of Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Samarra, in the province of Tikrit, on July 12, 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament failed Sunday to break a political deadlock that is holding up the formation of a new government to tackle an Islamist-led insurgency raging less than 80 kilometers from Baghdad.

After a brief session, parliamentary officials put off until Tuesday efforts to reach agreement among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians on the posts of prime minister, president and parliamentary speaker.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking a third term but faces opposition from Sunnis and Kurds who say he has ruled for the Shiite majority at the expense of others. Even rival Shiite parties want to unseat him.

The political impasse has been given added urgency by the Islamist-led insurgency which swept through Sunni provinces of northern Iraq last month, encouraging Maliki’s opponents to try to force his departure.

Sunni politicians said the main Sunni bloc put forward Salim al-Jabouri, a moderate Islamist, as their candidate for speaker, but accused Maliki of effectively torpedoing their proposal by linking it to their acceptance of his bid for a third term.

“We have presented our candidate for speaker and done what we should do,” said outgoing Speaker Osama Nujaifi. “We hold the other blocs responsible for the delay.

An arrest warrant on terrorism charges was issued in 2011 against Jabouri, who was serving on parliament’s human rights committee at the time. He had confronted Maliki over abuses against prisoners in special jails in the Green Zone of Baghdad where parliament is also located.

The charges were dropped after the April election amid rumors that Jabouri would back Maliki to remain as prime minister. But Saleh Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni politician, said that kind of deal would be rejected by many of his fellow Sunni lawmakers.

“We have presented Salim al-Jabouri and Maliki put a condition – in order to approve Jabouri as speaker, he himself should be approved as prime minister,” he said. “This is something we don’t accept.”

Two hundred and thirty-three out of 328 deputies attended Sunday’s short meeting, a significant improvement on the July 1 session, when only a third turned up. Bomb attacks struck the capital and its outskirts after the inconclusive session.

A blast near a busy street in the southwestern district of Bayaa killed three people and wounded seven, police and hospital sources said. In Yusifia, 15 kilometers south of the capital, a bomb went off near a crowded market, killing another three people, medics and police said.

With politics in Baghdad paralyzed, and Maliki continuing in a caretaker role, the fighting has raged on. Shelling and helicopter fire killed eight people and wounded 14 in the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a hospital spokesman said.

Militants from ISIS seized swathes of Iraq’s northern provinces in a two-day offensive last month and have consolidated their grip in western Iraq in places such as Falluja, which they overran in January.

The insurgents attacked the town of Dhuluiya, about 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, early Sunday, seizing local government buildings, police and witnesses said.

They said militants traveling in 50 to 60 vehicles stormed the mayor’s office and municipal council building and tried to seize the police station. Police and local tribes were fighting them, the sources said, and four police, two militants and two civilians were killed.

Maliki’s military spokesman said the army had retaken the towns of Sadur, Nawfal and parts of Muqdadiya after days of fighting in the area, northeast of Baghdad.

He was speaking one day after government forces launched an assault to repel ISIS from a military base on the edge of Muqdadiya, which the rebels had attacked with artillery, mortars and captured tanks and Humvees.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Iraq's parliament failed Sunday to break a political deadlock that is holding up the formation of a new government to tackle an Islamist-led insurgency raging less than 80 kilometers from Baghdad.

The political impasse has been given added urgency by the Islamist-led insurgency which swept through Sunni provinces of northern Iraq last month, encouraging Maliki's opponents to try to force his departure.

The charges were dropped after the April election amid rumors that Jabouri would back Maliki to remain as prime minister.

Two hundred and thirty-three out of 328 deputies attended Sunday's short meeting, a significant improvement on the July 1 session, when only a third turned up.

The insurgents attacked the town of Dhuluiya, about 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, early Sunday, seizing local government buildings, police and witnesses said.


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