Sunni and Shia Muslims unite over nomination for Iraqi PM

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The largest parliamentary bloc in Iraq, the Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), agreed yesterday to nominate the veteran politician Jawad al-Maliki as Prime Minister.

The nomination clears the way for a new government after opposition by Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari serving a second term.

Mr Jaafari agreed, after weeks of resisting calls by the US and Britain, among others, to step down. He had been accused of fuelling the sectarian violence, which has led to a near civil war.

Mr Maliki, an ally of Mr Jaafari, will face the task of putting together a national unity government to try to stem that violence.

Once the president is approved by parliament, he will designate Mr Maliki to form a government within 30 days. Politicians must then approve each member of the Government by a majority vote.

Leaders of the seven parties that make up the Shia alliance agreed Mr Maliki's nomination yesterday and Sunni and Kurdish politicians signalled that they would accept him. Mr Maliki, a leader in the Dawa Party, spent years living in Shia-dominated Iran during Saddam Hussein's rule. He joined the Dawa Party, the main Shia opposition to Saddam's rule, and was sentenced to death for his membership of the party.

However, the positive political developments did nothing to dampen the violence across the country yesterday.

Six off-duty soldiers were kidnapped and killed in the northern city of Beiji. In Tal Afar, northern Iraq, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle near an Iraqi police patrol, killing six people and wounding 11.

Meanwhile in Mosul, four policemen and a member of the public were killed and 11 policemen wounded when two roadside bombs targeting police patrols exploded separately in the Qadisiya district of Baghdad.