Iraqi PM begins forming new government

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The Prime Minister has appealed to the country's political factions for unity after formally accepting a request by the President to form the next government, part of a deal to end an eight-month deadlock over who would lead the country over the next four years.

The long-awaited request from President Jalal Talabani sets in motion a 30-day timeline to accomplish the daunting task of finding a team which includes all of Iraq's rival factions and will oversee the country during the departure of American troops.

"I know, and you know well, that the responsibility I am undertaking is not an easy task especially in the current circumstances that our country is passing through," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

The new government is expected to include all the major factions, including the Kurds, Shiite political parties aligned with Iran and a Sunni-backed bloc which believes it should have been the one leading the next government.

Many of the politicians were in the room with Mr Maliki and Mr Talabani when the announcement was made in a show of unity that belies the country's often divisive politics.

Mr Maliki, a contentious figure in Iraqi politics who rose from obscurity to lead the government in 2006, called upon Iraqis and fellow politicians – many who view him with distrust and animosity – to support him in the task ahead.