Nouri al-Maliki (left) during a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran in October 2010
Senior Iraqi officials were quoted late Wednesday saying that
after days of extensive talks, Iraqiya had agreed to accept the parliament
speaker's position and cede Mr. Maliki the prime minister's job. Under the
expected agreement, Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani would retain the
Politicians from Sunni, Kurdish and Shi'ite-backed groups, including a 30-seat breakaway faction from inside the cross-sectarian Iraqiya alliance, indicated they are ready to support Mr. Maliki at Thursday's parliament session and take part in his government.
If confirmed, the deal would break a nearly eight-month impasse that has paralyzed Iraqi state institutions and raised tensions as security forces battle insurgents who have been taking advantage of the deadlock to stoke violence.
The Iraqi parliament's Thursday session will be just the second since inconclusive March 7 elections. Iraq has been without a government since the vote.
Iraqiya, led by former premier Ayad Allawi, won two more seats than Mr. Maliki's bloc but was never able to find the political partners it needed for a majority. That allowed Mr. Maliki, a Shi'ite now partnered with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in an Iranian-backed coalition, to gain momentum and support.
Politicians from Mr. Maliki's Shi'ite merger, the National Alliance, say they will go ahead with government formation as long as they have a political majority, even if other blocs choose to boycott the parliamentary session. Last month, Iraq's high court ordered parliament to resume its sessions, putting pressure on politicians to expedite a deal.
Iraqi media reports say Mr. Allawi returned to the bargaining table in Baghdad Wednesday. The veteran secular Shi'ite politician had stayed away on Tuesday after attending the opening of talks a day earlier. In addition to the speaker's post, Mr. Allawi's coalition has reportedly been offered the presidency of a new National Council for Strategic Policies.
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