3/17/2005

No dice on Iraqi government

From Reuters:
Iraq's new parliament met for the first time on Wednesday, more than six weeks after it was elected in historic polls, but without a government as rival sectarian and ethnic blocs bicker over a coalition deal. Several Baghdad streets were closed and traffic restricted to try to thwart insurgent attacks, but guerrillas fired a rocket or mortar barrage into the fortified Green Zone compound before the meeting began...The Shi'ite Islamist alliance that won 140 seats -- just over half of the 275-member National Assembly -- and the Kurdish coalition that came second with 75 seats are deadlocked in negotiations over a government that have dragged on for weeks. There is tentative agreement that Ibrahim Jaafari of the Shi'ite Dawa party will be prime minister and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will be president, with a Sunni Arab candidate probably being offered the job of parliament speaker. But talks have stalled over Kurdish demands to expand their northern autonomous zone to include the strategic oil city of Kirkuk and the fate of the Kurdish peshmerga militias, which Shi'ites want to be absorbed in Iraq's official security forces. The Kurds also want guarantees Iraq will remain secular...The delay in forming a government has angered many Iraqis, after more than eight million people defied suicide bombers and mortar attacks to vote in the Jan. 30 elections.

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