World

Clinton: U.S. Hopes Iraq Government Deal Is Close

Nov. 8, 2010: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from left, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd, second from right, and Minister for Defense Stephen Smith listen during a press conference after the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) at Government House in Melbourne, Australia.

Nov. 8, 2010: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from left, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd, second from right, and Minister for Defense Stephen Smith listen during a press conference after the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) at Government House in Melbourne, Australia.  (AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the U.S. hopes Iraq is finally close to forming a new government -- eight months after elections.

Speaking in Australia, Clinton would not confirm reports that the political factions in Iraq have reached a deal. She said she cannot comment until Iraq announces an agreement.

But Clinton added that the U.S. hopes Iraq's political factions are near the end of their haggling. She said the U.S. wants Iraq's political blocs to form an inclusive government that represents all interests.

The leaders of the main political factions planned to meet later Monday amid signs they are close to breaking the political deadlock. The two men vying for prime minister -- incumbent Nouri al-Maliki and his rival Ayad Allawi -- both plan to attend, officials from their respective parties said.

It would be the first such face-to-face meeting of the bloc leaders since the March 7 polls.

Allawi's Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition won 91 seats in the elections -- two more than al-Maliki's State of Law. But neither bloc secured an outright majority, which has led to a period to intense political negotiations as both groups try to cobble together enough support to head a new government.

Recently, political momentum has swung in al-Maliki's direction.