Iraqi parliament to start forming govt by Saturday
* Shias and Kurds say government posts almost divided up
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament will convene by Saturday to elect a speaker and try to reach agreement on a government to end a political crisis in the country, politicians said.
The assembly’s first working session will be held at the weekend after the Shi’ite and Kurdish blocs, who between them have the two-thirds majority needed to form a government, sign a declaration on the status of the oil city of Kirkuk and the role of Islam, they said. “We will affirm the need to solve territorial disputes according to the interim constitution, which also says Islam is a main source of legislation and dispels fears that Iraq will be ruled by the clergy,” said Ali al-Dabagh, a member of the Shi’ite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance.
“There are still issues to be settled, notably ministries such as defence,” said Dabagh, who is well connected with the Shi’ite seminary in Najaf and its Iranian-born leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, another alliance member, said the session of the 275-member assembly could be as early as Friday, after Kurdish leaders return from Kurdish new celebrations in the north.
Uloum said Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, is the main candidate for speaker and it is understood that Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will be appointed president in exchange for the Kurds backing Alliance candidate Ibrahim Jaafari for prime minister.
“If things go smoothly we could see a presidential council elected in the same session,” said Uloum, a candidate to head the oil ministry. Parliament needs to elect a president and two vice presidents in order for the government to be formed. The assembly convened for the first time last week, but the session was ceremonial, with no government in place yet.
Cabinet ministers, including those for the portfolios of defence, finance and oil, have to yet to be finalised, MPs said.
Government posts: Iraq’s Shiites will take 16 to 17 ministries in the next government, the Kurds will hold seven to eight ministries and the country’s Sunni minority will be awarded four to six ministries, a Shiite negotiator said Tuesday.
Kurdish sources confirmed the numbers, while both sides predicted that an agreement on the government should be reached before Sunday. The Shiites will take the interior and finance ministries, along with the cabinet post of national security advisor, said Maryam Rayes, a negotiator with the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which won 146 seats in the new 275-member parliament.
The Kurds, with 77 seats, the second largest bloc in parliament, will receive seven to eight ministries, including the foreign ministry and probably oil, Rayes said.
A Kurdish source also confirmed the Kurds were likely to get eight ministries, including oil and foreign affairs.
The source said other posts that were locked up included the presidency, to be held by Jalal Talabani, and the post of deputy prime minister.
One complication that could change the allotment of slots is whether outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi’s list decides to join the government, which remains unclear, the Kurdish source said.
For her part, Rayes said Iraq’s Sunni minority, who boycotted the election, would probably be awarded between four and six posts, while the Christian and Turkmen minorities would receive one ministry each. Rayes said she thought it was doubtful Allawi or his followers would join the government. agencies