Monday, March 06, 2006

Iraqi Parliament to meet as terrorist attacks continue

Victim of bomb attack today in Baghdad.

Iraq's president said today he would convene the new parliament for the first time on March 12, starting a 60-day countdown during which lawmakers must elect a new head of state and sign off on a prime minister and Cabinet.

Terrorist attacks continued as a string of explosions in Baghdad and north of the capital killed at least 14 Iraqis and wounded 52.

The Iraqi constitution requires parliament to meet no later than four weeks after the vote was certified, which occurred Feb. 12.

"We will call today for holding the meeting on the 12th of this month because it is the last day that the constitution allows us to hold the meeting of the new parliament," President Jalal Talabani told reporters.

But a leading member of al-Jaafari's Dawa Party, Ali al-Adib, said parliament's main Shiite bloc would request the session be postponed until an agreement was made between the various factions on who should occupy the top government positions.

Shiite parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi, the one-time US favorite as Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein leader, said al-Jaafari deserved the opportunity to form a government.

"Dr. al-Jaafari should be given a chance. … It is to the benefit of all parties to keep the (Shiite) Alliance strong and unified," Chalabi said.

But Talabani, a Kurd, said al-Jaafari was too divisive a figure.

"We want a prime minister who can gather all the political blocs around him, so that the government would be one of national unity," he told a news briefing in Baghdad.

The U.S. has been pushing Iraq's Shiite majority for more concessions and power for Iraq's Sunni minority, at one point even threatening to cut off aid inthe absence of a `unity' government. President Bush regards a government with participation across Iraq's ethnic and religious communities as a key step in improving security that would allow Washington and its allies to begin pulling out troops.

Under the constitution, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, gets the first try at forming a government. It chose al-Jaafari as its nominee for prime minister, and he defeated current Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi by just one vote in the Shiite caucus.

It remains to be seen what the makeup of the unity government will consist of, or who will be at the head of it.

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