Iraq crisis: Parliament fails to break deadlock over split of political roles between Shia, Sunni and Kurds

 

Baghdad

Iraq’s parliament failed on Sunday to break a damaging political deadlock, which is holding up the formation of a new government to tackle the militant insurgency led by Isis.

After a brief session, parliamentary officials delayed until Tuesday their efforts to reach agreement between the country’s Shia, Sunni and Kurdish politicians on the posts of Prime Minister, President and parliamentary Speaker.

The political impasse has been given added urgency after Isis swept through Sunni provinces of northern Iraq last month and was only stemmed within 100 miles of the capital, Baghdad. The Prime Minister, Nuori al-Maliki, whose State of Law coalition is the largest individual list in parliament, is seeking a third term but faces opposition from Sunnis and Kurds who say he has ruled for the Shia majority at the expense of minority communities. Even rival Shia parties want to unseat Mr Maliki. The fall of northern Sunni cities has encouraged the Prime Minister’s opponents to try to force his departure.

 

The disagreement over Mr Maliki’s future appeared to be blocking progress on the other political posts.

Sunni politicians said that the main Sunni bloc put forward Salim al-Jabouri, a moderate Islamist, as their candidate for speaker, but accused Mr 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,” said the outgoing speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi. “We hold the other blocs responsible for the delay. Once we manage to complete the democratic process to form the government, this would help to stop the great destruction happening in Iraq, which is jeopardising the country’s unity.”

Iraq’s political elite is under pressure from the United States, the United Nations and Iraq’s own Shia clerics to reach agreement so politicians can deal with the insurgency and prevent the country fragmenting on sectarian and ethnic lines.

The UN special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, had said the country could plunge into chaos if parliament failed  to move forward on a government in Sunday’s session. Violent deaths last month reached more than 2,400.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Sunday’s short meeting was attended by 233 out of 328 deputies, a significant improvement on the 1 July session, when only a third turned up.

Outside of the parliamentary horsetrading, insurgents attacked a town north of Baghdad early on Sunday, seizing local government buildings, police and witnesses said.They said militants in 50 to 60 vehicles stormed the town of Dhuluiya, taking the mayor’s office and municipal council building and fighting to take control of the police station.

The militants were pushed back at Dhuluiya in June by soldiers backed by fighters from the Shia Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, but fighting has continued and they have taken other towns.

The police and witnesses said local police and tribes were battling the militants in Dhuluiya on Sunday. They said a number of policemen were killed in the fighting, as well as at least two militants and two civilians.

In Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, Mr Maliki’s military spokesman, Lt-Gen Qassim Atta, said the army had retaken the town of Sadur, as well as nearby Nawfal and parts of the town of Muqdadiya after days of fighting in the area.

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

REUTERS

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