Iraq's Leaders Back Fragile Power-Sharing Deal
Iraq's president has asked Shi'ite incumbent Nouri al-Maliki to
retain his position as prime minister and form a new government, but a dispute
in parliament on a newly reached power-sharing deal prompted most of the
Sunni-backed opposition to walk out, underscoring the agreement's fragility.
Iraqi lawmakers Thursday re-elected Jalal Talabani as president. The Kurdish
leader then nominated Mr. Maliki to form a unity government, paving the way for
his return to office for another four-year term. Under Iraqi law, he has 30 days
to form his Cabinet.
But newly elected parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab, and roughly
two-thirds of the other 91 lawmakers from the Iraqiya coalition -- including
former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi -- walked out of Thursday's session to protest
the rejection of a series of demands they made.
Among them were commitments to release detainees and reverse the
disqualification of three Iraqiya candidates for their alleged ties to the
outlawed Ba'ath Party of executed former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Sunnis
view the controversial de-Baathification process as a Shi'ite attempt to bar
them from returning to power.
Nujaifi later returned to the session, where voting had continued on Mr.
Talabani's re-election. Earlier Thursday, parliament members also elected a
Sadrist Movement member and a Kurdistan Alliance lawmaker as deputy speakers.
The walkout underlined the Sunni minority's ambivalence over the prospective new
unity government outlined in the deal, which ensures continued Shi'ite
domination while giving Sunnis a role far short of the greater political power
U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday welcomed the progress but urged Iraqi
leaders involved in the fragile power-sharing arrangement to aim for an
"inclusive government." The White House said Mr. Obama spoke to several Iraqi
leaders in recent days and stressed the need for Mr. Allawi, other Iraqiya
members and all the winning political blocs to hold leadership posts in the
country's new government.
Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani, who brokered the agreement, said
Thursday Mr. Allawi would lead a newly created committee overseeing foreign
policy and national security, the National Council for Strategic Policies. The
council's powers, however, remain undefined.
For their part, Iraqi Kurds feel they have solidified their role in government.
Though the presidency is a largely symbolic position, Mr. Talabani has been able
to wield considerable power because of his background as a longtime Kurdish
Mr. Allawi's Iraqiya alliance won the most seats in inconclusive March elections
but was unable to gain enough support from other parties to create a majority
coalition. Iraqiya's inability to find political partners allowed Mr. Maliki,
who partnered with anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in an
Iranian-backed coalition, to gain momentum and support.
If the shaky deal holds, it could end the stalemate that has paralyzed Iraqi
state institutions as security forces battle insurgents who have taken advantage
of the political vacuum to stoke violence.
Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.
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