Menu

Religion

Iraq lawmakers approve deal to form new government

Iraqi lawmakers have approved an agreement that brings all of Iraq's feuding political blocs into a new government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The vote Saturday was intended as a show of unity after the country's main Sunni-backed bloc had earlier threatened to boycott the session.

The Iraqiya coalition has alleged that al-Maliki is trying to sideline it from power.

The agreement also gives the Kurds the presidency, and an Iraqiya lawmaker the parliament speaker's post.

But deep disagreements remain over how government jobs will be distributed in al-Maliki's new government, and what role the country's Sunni minority will play in it.

There was no immediate tally of how many members attended or voted for the deal, but Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said it passed by a large margin.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A Sunni-backed political bloc said Saturday it will join efforts to produce a national unity government, backing away from a threat to boycott parliament.

Iraqiya's decision raised hopes that lawmakers could resolve disputes that have threatened to derail an agreement intended to bring all of Iraq's major blocs into the government. The deal announced this week ended an eight-month impasse that had stalled the formation of a new government, but almost immediately began to unravel when Iraqiya walked out of the session.

The months of political jockeying after inconclusive March 7 parliamentary elections have left Iraqis disillusioned amid fears the sidelining of the minority Sunni community could stoke more violence.

Lawmakers reconvened on Saturday, two days after many Iraqiya members walked out of a parliament session over what they said were broken promises by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition.

President Jalal Talabani went ahead and nominated al-Maliki to form the new government, despite the walkout. Al-Maliki now has a month to allocate ministerial posts.

"There was a misunderstanding in the last session," Iraqiya spokesman Haider al-Mulla told lawmakers. "We here stress that we will be an active part in producing a national unity government."

The statement indicated Iraqiya will participate in al-Maliki's new Shiite-dominated administration, although it was not clear what role the Sunnis will play.

Iraqiya lawmaker Wahda al-Joumaili said the Sunni-backed list will participate in the government if al-Maliki's alliance will adhere to what she said were previous agreements allocating Iraqiya some of the more influential ministries.

The comments Saturday by many Iraqiya members appeared to backtrack somewhat from a statement late Friday by bloc's leader, former prime minister Ayad Allawi. He told CNN television that the concept of power-sharing, referring to efforts to give Iraqiya a significant role in the new government, is dead.

"The main bulk of Iraqiya is not going to be part and I am definitely not going to be part of this government," Allawi said.

Iraqiya's position has been significantly weakened after it won the most seats in the March 7 parliamentary elections but was left without the majority needed for a clear mandate. That paved the way for al-Maliki to assemble a mainly Shiite coalition that enabled him to secure a second term.

Thursday's walkout happened after Iraqiya accused al-Maliki's Shiite alliance of violating an agreement to reverse a ban on three Iraqiya lawmakers prevented from taking up government posts for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's banned Baathist party.

The majority of Iraqiya lawmakers got up and left, threatening not to return.