Iraq’s Maliki looks to save power-sharing pact

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Nuri al-Maliki faced the task of repairing a power-sharing pact at a parliamentary session on Saturday after accusations the deal that gives him a second term as premier has broken down.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 2:19 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:11 AM

Despite the fragility of the pact, international leaders including US President Barack Obama lauded it as a step forward for a country that has been without a new government since inconclusive elections in March.

A meeting of MPs on Thursday in which newly re-elected President Jalal Talabani verbally named Maliki prime minister-designate by was overshadowed by a dramatic walk-out by some 60 MPs from the Sunni-backed bloc of former premier Iyad Allawi.

Party leaders were scheduled to hold talks on Saturday morning before a session of parliament, but it was not immediately clear whether Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc would attend either.

For many, the support of Iraqiya, which narrowly won the March 7 poll and garnered most of its seats in Sunni areas, is vital to preventing a resurgence of violence.

The Sunni Arab minority that dominated Saddam Hussein’s regime was the bedrock of the anti-US insurgency after the 2003 invasion.

“There are a lot of disagreements,” independent Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman said on Friday following the parliament walkout by the Iraqiya MPs the night before.

“Last night showed that the agreement is shaky,” he added.

“Maybe it was signed behind closed doors, and when it came into the open, one side did not support it. If this means Iraqiya will not be participating in the government, that will create problems.”

Thursday’s parliamentary session, only the second since the election, had gotten off to a good start, with Maliki and Allawi sitting side-by-side in the chamber.

But shortly after Sunni Arab and Iraqiya member Osama al-Nujaifi was chosen as speaker, verbal clashes erupted, with Iraqiya complaining the power-sharing deal was not being honoured.

Specifically, it called for three of its top members, barred for their alleged ties to Saddam’s Baath party, to be reinstated before voting for a president.

When their demands were not met, dozens of lawmakers left the chamber. After some confusion, the remaining MPs began voting to re-elect Talabani.

The power-sharing deal stipulated that a Sunni Arab would hold the post of speaker, and that Talabani and Maliki would retain their posts.

It also established a statutory body to oversee security, a concession to Allawi, who had held out for months to regain the post of premier.

Iraqiya has said its participation rests on four conditions: a bill forming the security body, a committee examining cases against political detainees, codifying the power-sharing deal and annulling bans on the three Iraqiya members.

Allawi has repeatedly accused Maliki of monopolising security decisions during his first term. As far back as six months ago, US officials floated the idea of a new counterweight to the premier’s office in order to break the deadlock over the top job.

US President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a “milestone” in Iraq’s history.

The government would be “representative, inclusive and reflect the will of the Iraqi people,” he said, adding Washington had long lobbied for such a “broad-based government.”

The US military, which currently has fewer than 50,000 soldiers in Iraq, is due to withdraw all of its forces by the end of 2011.

Britain, a partner in the US-led invasion, called the deal a “significant step forward,” a sentiment echoed by France and Iraq’s northern neighbour Turkey.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the deal but urged Iraq’s leaders to “continue demonstrating the same spirit of partnership in moving swiftly to conclude the formation of a new government.”

The Security Council said it “encourages Iraq’s leaders to rededicate themselves to the pursuit of national reconciliation” and emphasised the importance of Iraq’s stability for the region.

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