Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kurdish and Shiite politicians said Thursday they made headway in solving new disagreements in their deal to form a coalition government, nearly seven weeks after Iraqis took to the polls, but it remained unclear when that new government would be announced. The talks came after Iraqi legislators were sworn in Wednesday as members of the 275-seat National Assembly, vowing to uphold freedom and democracy two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many of the new deputies wore traditional robes trimmed in gold, and mingled with austere Shiite clerics in black robes and turbans. Other men wore tan or gray suits, while nearly all the 85 women lawmakers wore headscarves. (AP)

Press gives Iraq parliament wary welcome. Papers in Iraq hail the inaugural session of the Iraqi parliament as a first step towards national unity, even though the failure to form a government made the gathering largely a formality. But one Baghdad paper voices its impatience with the horse-trading between the main Shia and Kurd parties over government posts. In the wider region there is cautious optimism for Iraq's future, although one Iranian commentator argues that the US will still be the dominant power. (BBC News)

Iraq's first freely elected National Assembly in more than a generation convened Wednesday, moments after a series of mortar rounds landed nearby, rattling windows and highlighting the long way the country has to go on the road to a stable, secure democracy. The meeting was largely ceremonial. After taking the oath of office, the 275 members of the assembly -- men wearing flowing robes, cleric's turbans and Western suits, while many women wore head scarves -- filed out of a borrowed auditorium without even deciding when to convene again. The assembly's most important task will be to write a constitution, but the members so far have been unable even to form a government to begin the job. The dominant Shi'ite Muslim coalition is still haggling with three Kurdish parties in the hopes of putting together the two-thirds majority necessary. (Detroit Free Press)

Iraq's house of new freedom, old tensions. IRAQ's new parliament opened to the boom of mortar fire and fiery debate from the floor over ethnic identity, then promptly closed again as the newly elected legislators returned to their endless backroom haggling over the make-up of the new government. The parties' failure to agree on a government meant there was little of the euphoria that marked the momentous elections of January 31. In fact, there was little for the 275 deputies to do but meet, declare the session open, listen to speeches from various dignitaries and take their oath of office. Yet even that simple schedule descended into farce after a squabble on the floor over whether the legislators should be made to swear the oath in Kurdish as well as Arabic – the last of several interjections on a nationalist theme from Kurdish deputies. (The Australian)