Sunday, March 06, 2005

Iraq's dominant Shiite-led alliance set a mid-March deadline to form a government, prodded to action yesterday by spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who demanded progress after more than a month of postelection haggling. Members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the big winner in the Jan. 30 legislative elections, met in central Baghdad and agreed to try to form a government and convene the 275-member National Assembly by March 15 - after Sistani demanded that they stop bickering. (AP via Philadelphia Inquirer)

Iraq's newly elected National Assembly will convene for the first time on March 16 even if complete agreement on a new government has not been reached, political leaders said Sunday. "They decided together that the assembly will be held on the 16th of this month," said Jawad Taki, spokesman for a leading Islamist party that met Saturday with other political groups and selected the date. Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician and interim deputy prime minister, told Reuters news agency that the assembly would hold its first meeting on that day whether or not total agreement had been reached on a government. The parties "hope to reach an agreement by then," he said. "If we don't . . . the National Assembly will begin its work and discussions will continue inside the assembly." (Washington Post)

Leadership stalemate grips Iraq. Iraq will hold a meeting of its newly elected National Assembly in 10 days with or without a new government, the deputy prime minister said, hoping to instill a sense of order amid the daily violence. Five weeks after elections, the lack of agreement between leading parties over who will lead the new government has fanned fears insurgent activity will spiral unchecked. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih Sunday said he hoped politicians would end horse-trading over top posts before the meeting. (The Standard [China])