Iraq govt to have Sunni-backed bloc

All factions agree on power-sharing pact

Deal sealed: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. AP

The deal on the top government posts brings together Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds in a power-sharing arrangement that could help forestall a slide back into Shi’ite-Sunni bloodshed that raged after the 2003 US-led invasion which ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

Sunnis might have reacted with widespread anger had the Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance of former prime minister Iyad Allawi been totally excluded from government.

Some may still feel cheated of power because of Maliki’s expected return as prime minister.

The deal will see Kurd Jalal Talabani retain the presidency and give a top Sunni politician from Allawi’s bloc the speaker post in parliament and other Iraqiya members cabinet jobs. Allawi himself will head a council of strategic policies.

“Thank God last night we made a big achievement, which is considered a victory for all Iraqis,” Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani said at a news conference.

OPEC producer Iraq, trying to rebuild its oil industry after decades of war and economic sanctions and to quell a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency, has been without a new government since a March 7 election that failed to produce a clear winner.

“The most important issue now is that we are out of the bottleneck,” said Amer al-Fayyadh, the dean of political science at Baghdad University.

“The formation of a government is now in sight.”

Lawmakers were scheduled to meet later in the second parliamentary session since the election and should pick a speaker, the next step towards a new government.

Potential hurdles

But in a harbinger of potential hurdles still to come, Iraqiya officials said the bloc had not agreed on a candidate and there was internal squabbling over the nominee.
Allawi pushed hard to displace Maliki as prime minister after Iraqiya won two more seats than Maliki’s coalition in the vote.

Allawi has said repeatedly that Sunni anger might have reinvigorated a weakened but still deadly insurgency had his alliance been sidelined.

Parliament’s first task will be to elect a speaker and two deputies. It must then pick a president who in turn nominates a prime minister from the largest bloc, who is given 30 days to form a government.

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