News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIraq rivals mull meeting to bring premiership row to...

Iraq rivals mull meeting to bring premiership row to a head

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AFP: Iraq’s rivals for the premiership, incumbent Nuri al-Maliki and former premier Iyad Allawi, are mulling meeting face to face in a bid to resolve a row that has stalled coalition talks for months, aides said on Sunday.

By Ammar Karim

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraq’s rivals for the premiership, incumbent Nuri al-Maliki and former premier Iyad Allawi, are mulling meeting face to face in a bid to resolve a row that has stalled coalition talks for months, aides said on Sunday.

Their spokesmen gave no date for the proposed meeting which would be only their second since a March 7 general election that gave no one faction the parliamentary majority to form a new government.

But they set contradictory agendas for the meeting.

Maliki’s spokesman said the talks should directly address the sharing of posts in a new government and Allawi’s insisting the dispute over the premiership must be resolved first.

“The talks between Allawi and Maliki should be on a serious basis, which means that all the party decision-makers should be there,” said Maliki’s media advisor Ali Musawi.

“We are aiming to reach a formula for a new coalition government that is on the basis of sectarian quotas,” he said.

The media advisor of Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, Hani Ashur, countered that the head-to-head was the wrong forum to discuss power-sharing given that the other leading blocs would be absent.

“Allawi and Maliki will not discuss a carve-up of political posts, the discussions will focus on the way to get out of the current deadlock,” he said.

“We have had confidence-building talks with the Sadrists, with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and with the Kurds, and we’re not going to disregard those in any new talks with Maliki,” he added.

Maliki has formed an uneasy alliance with the SIIC — a Shiite religious faction — and supporters of Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr in a bid to secure a parliamentary majority but they have refused to endorse him as their candidate for the premiership.

“Maliki runs off to meet Allawi whenever he runs into problems within the Shiite alliance,” a SIIC official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The prime minister’s spokesman said that his State of Law alliance had offered the presidency to Allawi’s list, which swept Sunni Arab provinces of Iraq although he himself is a secular Shiite.

“Iraqiya could give up the premiership to State of Law and they will get the presidency,” Musawi said

“We raised this idea with Iraqiya and they said they were sticking to their demands (for the premiership).”

Iraqiya’s parliamentary leader Hussein al-Shaalan said: “This is just wishful thinking by State of Law.”

Maliki has repeatedly hit out at “foreign interference” in the coalition talks, which he said was a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

But Iraqiya’s spokesman insisted the United States and the United Nations had no choice but to act in the face of the protracted deadlock caused by Maliki’s insistence on clinging onto power.

“They have to interfere,” Ashur said. “If the Iraqis stick to their positions, the problem will not be solved and the Americans will not remain a spectator.

“If the UN doesn’t act, what is its purpose,” he added.

Baghdad University political analyst Hamid Fadhil said a looming August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of the remaining 50,000 combat troops out of a total contingent of 88,000 was likely to force Washington’s hand.

“America is not going to sit there doing nothing, particularly given the troop withdrawal timetable,” he said.

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