Iraq’s new govt to include Sunni-backed bloc

Iraq’s new govt to include Sunni-backed bloc
# 12 November 2010 03:37 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Iraq’s fractious politicians have agreed to return Shi’ite Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister, ending an eight-month deadlock that raised fears of renewed sectarian war, but leaving some Sunnis skeptical he can forge national unity, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
The deal on top government posts brings together Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds in a power-sharing arrangement similar to the last Iraqi government and could help forestall a slide back into sectarian bloodshed that raged after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Sunnis, who dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein, would have reacted with outrage had the Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance of ex-premier Iyad Allawi been totally excluded from government. Some may still feel cheated because of Maliki’s return.
The deal will see Kurd Jalal Talabani retain the presidency and give Allawi’s bloc the speaker post in parliament and other Iraqiya members cabinet jobs, such as foreign minister. Allawi himself will head a council of strategic policies.
"Thank God last night we made a big achievement, which is considered a victory for all Iraqis," Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani said at a news conference in Baghdad.
OPEC producer Iraq, trying to rebuild its oil industry after decades of war and economic sanctions and to quell a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency, has been without a new government since a March 7 election that failed to produce a clear winner.
"The most important issue now is that we are out of the bottleneck," said Amer al-Fayyadh, the dean of political science at Baghdad University.
"The formation of a government is now in sight."
Lawmakers were scheduled to meet later on Thursday in only the second parliamentary session since the election and should pick a speaker, the next step toward a new government.
A senior Iraqiya leader said the alliance would nominate Sunni Arab lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi for speaker.
Lawmakers must then pick a president who in turn nominates a prime minister, who has 30 days to form a government.
Allawi pushed hard to displace Maliki as premier after Iraqiya won two more seats than Maliki’s coalition in the vote.
Allawi has said repeatedly that Sunni anger might have reinvigorated the insurgency had his alliance been sidelined.
The division of the top posts along ethnosectarian lines was a reflection of the sharp divisions that define Iraq after more than seven years of warfare unleashed by the U.S. invasion.
Washington formally ended combat in August but 50,000 U.S. troops remain to advise and assist the nascent army and police ahead of a full withdrawal next year.
Overall violence has fallen sharply since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006/07, but assassinations and bombings still occur many times a day, followed every few weeks by a major, devastating assault by insurgents in which dozens die.
Tensions mounted as Maliki and Allawi wrestled over power.
Rockets and mortars were fired at Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone district of government offices in recent days and insurgents killed dozens in an attack on a Catholic church and on Shi’ite areas of the capital.
Maliki’s return will likely enrage Sunni hardliners, who abhor what they see as Iran’s influence over Iraq’s Shi’ite leaders and his Islamist background, and Sunni Islamist insurgents, who view Shi’ites as apostates.
While the deal created a job for Allawi and gave Iraqiya the controlling position in parliament, some Sunnis may still feel marginalized, as they did after the previous election in 2005.
"In one way or another, we have the same atmosphere as in 2005 when Sunnis felt they were misrepresented in government, which in turn contributed to instability," said Yahya al-Kubaisy, a researcher at the Iraq Institution for Strategic Studies. He called Allawi’s new job a "face-saving measure."
Despite political squabbles and continuing violence that has unsettled some foreign investors, global oil majors are working to crank up production in Iraq’s vast oilfields.
Officials hope to lift production capacity to 12 million barrels per day from the current 2.5 million, vaulting Iraq into the top echelon of world producers.
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