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Shiite-Kurd talks lag on forming Iraq’s next government
by repost
Thursday Mar 24th, 2005 8:54 AM
BAGHDAD, March 24 (AFP) - 14h30 - Negotiations on forming the next Iraqi government dragged on Thursday, with Kurdish negotiators absent and the Shiite side questioning whether a government would be unveiled this weekend even if the parliament convenes.
"We are waiting for the Kurdish negotiators to come back from Nohruz (the Kurdish new year)," said Haidar Mussawi, a spokesman for Ahmed al-Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi National Congress and the election-winning Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

"Even if the parliament convenes Saturday or Sunday, it may take another week to have a government," Mussawi said.

A Kurdish source said the delay stemmed in part from efforts to convince outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi’s list to join the government.

"They are negotiating on the Allawi list’s participation. It might take a few more days," the Kurdish source said.

The news came almost two months after the historic January 30 election that saw millions of Iraqis risk bombs and bullets to vote.

Kurdish negotiator and foreign minister Hoshyar al-Zebari was in Algiers to attend an Arab summit and only two Kurdish leaders, Fuad Massum and Barham Saleh, were in Baghdad, Shiite negotiator Maryam al-Rayes told AFP.

All the Kurdish negotiators were expected back on Thursday, the Kurdish source said.

Rayes said the UIA still wanted to convene the national assembly on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, signalled his growing impatience with the elected parliament’s failure to assemble a government and urged them to hurry up the process.

The Kurds, fearful of falling under the thumb of Arab rule, have fought for iron-clad guarantees that the Shiite majority will respect their hard-won freedom in the north.

The Kurds and Shiites have also struggled to bring Iraq’s alienated Sunni minority, which ruled Iraq for most of its history, into the government.

Under a complicated system of checks and balances, the 275-member parliament requires a two-thirds majority to elect the president and his two deputies.

They in turn nominate the prime minister who presents a cabinet to the parliament for a majority vote.

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