PM al Maliki looks to salvage fragile power-sharing deal
Iraq's newly reappointed prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki (left), will look to salvage a fragile power-sharing deal at a parliamentary session on Saturday after some 60 members of former premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc staged a walkout on Friday.
Iraq's newly reappointed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will look to salvage a fragile power-sharing deal at a parliamentary session on Saturday after some 60 members of former premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc staged a walkout a day earlier.
The deal was already looking frayed on Friday after parliament ended in disarray just hours after the deal was sealed.
The agreement announced in Baghdad returned al Maliki, a Shiite, to power, leaving Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to serve as president and a Sunni Arab from former premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc as parliament speaker.
Allawi was due to head a national council on strategic policies, a position that US officials said would allow for checks on the government's direction.
But after electing Osama al-Nujaifi as speaker, about 60 members of Allawi's Iraqiya bloc walked out to press for the reinstatement of three fellow members barred for alleged links to Saddam Hussein's regime.
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have spoken to several Iraqi leaders in recent days to press for an agreement that would bring Allawi and his bloc into the government, senior administration officials said.
Allawi's faction won the most seats in the elections, but he failed to gain the prime minister's post.
During telephone calls last week, Obama discussed the possibility of Kurds giving up the presidency in favour of Allawi as an option, a senior administration official said.
But in the end, the parliament speaker post combined with the chairmanship of the strategic policy council proved sufficient to bring Allawi into the new government.
However, officials said negotiations are ongoing on certain other positions before the new government can be officially formed.
"But the major decisions have been taken, the constitutional process has begun and you have an emerging inclusive Iraqi government that is representative of those election results for March," an official said.
US, British accolades
The US and Britain have both hailed the fragile deal, concluded after months of political deadlock.
Obama, speaking at the G20 summit in South Korea, said the agreement was a “milestone” in the country’s history, while British Foreign Secretary William Hague praised it as a “significant step forward”.
The US and Britain were the two main partners in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein.
Hague said in a statement: "I was very pleased to hear of the agreement on the appointment of the Iraqi president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives.”
"This is a significant step forward and I now urge Iraq quickly to complete the process of forming a government that represents all Iraqis."
Meanwhile, Obama warned there were still challenges to come in Iraqi politics, but said the deal was "inclusive" and reflected the will of the people following the Iraqi election in March.
"There are still some challenges to come but all indications are the government will be representative, inclusive and reflect the will of the Iraqi people," Obama said, capping an intense US effort to back the unity process.
"This agreement marks another milestone in the history of modern Iraq," Obama said, pledging that the United States would continue to support Iraqis as they solidified their democracy.