Saturday, December 30, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

AP: Saddam Hussein will be executed no later than Saturday, said an Iraqi judge authorized to attend his hanging. American and Iraqi officials met to set the hour of his death. [...]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New York Post: Most Iraqis knew little or nothing about America in 2003 when the U.S.-led Coalition forces entered Baghdad. Since then, most have learned at least one thing about the United States: Like a fickle monarch, it could wake up one morning and reverse whatever it was committed to a day before. This may be a naive, even unfair, perception of America. But it is the one around which most players in Iraqi politics have built their strategies.

The Shiites, grateful though they are to America for having helped them win power for the first time, feel obliged to have a insurance policy for when (not if) the Americans cut and run. This is why all prominent Iraqi Shiite politicians have been to Tehran. That insurance, however, comes at a price. Iran's rulers insist that the new Iraq turn a blind eye to the activities of Shiite militias, created and armed by Tehran with Hezbollah support. And, because they are unsure of American steadfastness, the Shiites are pressing for a federal structure that would give them 90 percent of Iraq's oil regardless of what happens next. That, together with the increased activities of Shiite death squads, enrages the Arab Sunnis.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Reuters: An envoy of Iraq's prime minister on Saturday met tribal leaders in the southern town of Amara in efforts to ease the tension after fierce battles between militia gunmen and police. National Security Minister Shirwan al-Waeli, sent to Amara on Friday by prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to restore order, said the clashes, which left at least 25 dead in two days, had been fueled by tribal divisions.

AP: President Bush reviewed Iraq strategy with top generals for a second day in a row amid increasing election-season pressure to make dramatic changes to address deteriorating conditions. Gathered around a Roosevelt Room conference table with Bush were Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East; Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley; and other officials. Vice President Dick Cheney and Gen. George Casey, who leads the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq, joined in by videoconference.

dpa: Syria's Sunni leader Sheik Salah El-Deen Kiftaroof on Saturday said he 'strongly' supported an agreement between Iraqi Sunni and Shiite religious figures rejecting sectarian violence and calling for peace between different religious sects in Iraq reached in Mecca.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

AP: Lawmakers across party lines Tuesday endorsed the prime minister's new plan for stopping sectarian killings, but Shiite and Sunni leaders still must work out details of how to put aside sharp divisions and work together to halt the bloodshed. [...] The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been under intense pressure to put an end to Shiite-Sunni violence that has killed thousands of people this year. This week, gunmen carried out two mass kidnappings in as many days, abducting 38 people from their workplaces in Baghdad — attacks that Sunnis said were carried out by Shiite militias. On Monday night, al-Maliki announced a four-point plan aimed at uniting the sharply divided Shiite and Sunni parties in his government behind security efforts to stop the bloodshed. [...] Al-Maliki's plan, signed by all sides, aims to resolve disputes by giving every party a voice in how security forces operate against violence on a neighborhood-by- neighborhood level. [...]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive al Qaeda out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shi'ite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against Islamist militants. But this good news for the U.S.-backed government regarding Anbar province came as the leader of the Kurdish region in the north threatened to secede if Baghdad tried to exert influence over his territory's oil wealth.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

AP: Iraq's best chance to boost its languishing oil output is by working with major international companies under production-sharing agreements, Iraq's deputy prime minister said on Sunday. Barham Saleh said Iraqi leaders were nearing agreement on a long-awaited hydrocarbon law that would allow potentially huge investments by foreign companies in Iraq's oil sector. He was hopeful that oil would be a "unifying force," but conceded that wrangling continued over whether it would be controlled locally or by the central government. Saleh said he expected the law setting ground rules for managing Iraq's huge petroleum reserves to be approved in parliament by year's end. [...]

Saturday, September 09, 2006

AP: Iraq's prime minister announced plans to visit Iran on Monday, just days after his deputy returned from the country, accompanied by several top officials. [...]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reuters: Iraq's prime minister plans to reshuffle his cabinet just 100 days after it was formed because of frustrations with some ministers' performance and disloyalty among others, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Reuters. In a weekend interview, he said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would make the changes soon in an "important signal" of commitment to efficiency in his national unity coalition and to his efforts to rally factions behind a reconciliation plan to avert civil war. Some changes will involve the movement of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, several political sources said on Sunday. A key player in the government formed in May after months of wrangling, Sadr denies his Mehdi Army militia runs some of the sectarian death squads behind much recent violence. "There will be a government reshuffle. There will be some changes in a number of cabinet portfolios," Salih, the most senior Kurdish official in the cabinet, said. "It's only natural for the prime minister and the political leadership to contemplate reshuffling and changing to improve the ability of the government," he added. [...]

Saturday, August 26, 2006

AP: Hundreds of Iraqi tribal chiefs gave important support Saturday to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national reconciliation plan, while the government leader called the release of a leading Sunni Arab lawmaker by kidnappers a gift to his unity campaign. Al-Maliki won endorsement of his program for bridging religious, ethnic and political divisions at a national conference of tribal chiefs. A representative of the chiefs read their agreement on live television, calling it a "pact of honor."

Reuters: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged hundreds of tribal leaders gathered in Baghdad on Saturday to unite to end the bitter sectarian bloodshed between Sunnis and Shi'ites that has raised fears of civil war. "Iraq needs all of its sons during this stage. There is no difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites," he told the meeting, the first in a series to promote dialogue between the warring sects as part of his national reconciliation programme. "Yes, we differ in opinion and that's a healthy sign but we must hold dialogue to solve our problems," Maliki said. "The liberation of the nation from any foreign hand cannot be without national unity, the unity that our forefathers built during hundreds of years." [...]

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Reuters: Iraq has joined forces with the United Nations and the World Bank to tackle corruption and to boost economic development. [...]

Reuters: Iraq is expected to start talks with major [oil] companies in two months to develop its oilfields and some are eager to begin work even before a hydrocarbon law is in place, its oil minister said on Wednesday. [...]

Zaman Daily News (Turkey): Positive developments have begun to occur after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced harsh reactions to the US and Iraqi administrations regarding their stance over the outlawed terrorist organization, Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said they were serious about the fight against the terror organization and would “immediately” shut down the PKK’s bureau in Bagdat (Baghdad). [...]

Reuters: Iraq's central bank offers a beacon of stability in a country on the brink of civil war, but the governor is still forced to use safe houses for meetings with guests too scared to visit his headquarters downtown.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Reuters: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday his country will not slide into civil war but acknowledged that mounting sectarian violence is now killing 100 civilians a day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Iraq status report

Via The Belmont Club, the full transcript of ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's Iraq status report.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Financial Times (UK): Iraq's national reconciliation initiative has paved the way for government contacts with insurgents and should be seen as only a first step towards a political solution to the conflict, according to Iraq's vice-president. Adel Abdel-Mehdi, senior Shia official and vice-president in the new government, told the Financial Times that other measures would follow the plan unveiled last Sunday and deemed by many analysts to be vague and incomplete. In an interview during a visit to London, Mr Abdel-Mehdi said contacts with insurgents had been going on for some time but the reconciliation plan had now made dialogue an official policy. He also left the door open to a broadening of an am-nesty offer after Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, this week insisted it would exclude anyone who had killed American troops or Iraqis. [...]

Saturday, June 17, 2006

AP: Analysis: Iraq PM Challenged by Insurgency

IranMania: According to an AFP report, Iran will next month host a conference on security in Iraq gathering representatives from Iraq's neighbours, Egypt, the Arab League and Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

Friday, June 16, 2006

AP: A top government official said Friday that Iraq has an agreement to take over security responsibilities from foreign forces in southern Iraq this month. Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie was responding to a Japanese news report that British, Australian and Japanese troops will transfer security responsibilities in southern Iraq to Iraqi authorities next week, and soon withdraw from the area. "There is an agreement to take over the security responsibilities from the British, Australian and Japanese forces in southern Iraq during this month," al-Zubaie said. "There is such a plan and such news is not based on nothing. We hope that the Iraqi security forces will live up to their duties there. It is the dream of all Iraqis that our forces will handle security issues all over Iraq." The Kyodo News agency, citing people close to the coalition forces, reported that British officials told their counterparts in the other two countries last week that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will announce the transfer of security authority in southern Iraq on Tuesday. Officials in the Iraqi prime minister's media office said they could not confirm or deny the report. [...]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A similar story to the AP one (just posted) is currently on the CNN front page: PM: Iraqi troops battle ready in 2007.

AP update: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday he believed Iraqi forces were capable of taking over security around the country within 18 months, but he did not mention a timetable for U.S.-led coalition forces to leave. [...] "Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year-and-a-half," al-Maliki said in a written statement, in which he acknowledged that security forces needed more recruits, training and equipment. His comments came as Sunni Arab and Shiite political leaders expressed hope that compromise candidates would be found to head the defense and interior ministries by Saturday. [...]

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Good overview of positive developments in Iraq: The Real Iraq

AP's coverage of today's cabinet appointments.

CNN: Iraq's first permanent government since the fall of Saddam Hussein was approved by parliament and sworn in on Saturday, despite the failure to fill two key ministry posts because of political disputes. "The main problem now is security, and they could not appoint defense and interior [ministers]," said prominent Sunni Muslim politician Saleh al-Mutlag, who walked out of the proceedings. "This session is illegal," al-Mutlag said. "They added seven ministries without getting approval." Al-Mutlag said he and others had asked the government to wait longer to try to fill the critical posts. Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki said he would temporarily run the Interior Ministry, and he made a temporary appointment to the Defense Ministry -- Salam al-Zobaie, a Sunni politician who also had been designated as a deputy prime minister. There are 37 Cabinet posts in all and parliamentary terms last four years. [...]

BBC News (largely repeating earlier update): Iraq's PM-designate Nouri Maliki says the make-up of the cabinet has been finalised but the posts of interior and defence minister will be filled later. Mr Maliki will present the cabinet for approval by parliament on Saturday. Shias, Sunni Arabs and Kurds have been in dispute over the make-up of the unity government since elections in December, causing a power vacuum. US and Iraqi officials have said the unity government is the country's best chance avoiding a full sectarian war. The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance won most seats in parliament in Iraq's first full elections, held last December. [...]

Friday, May 19, 2006

AP: The incoming Iraqi prime minister said Friday he had failed to reach a deal with coalition partners on naming defense or interior ministers, but he still would inaugurate his Cabinet on Saturday.

Nouri al-Maliki said after meeting with officials of other political coalitions and parties that a decision had been made on the rest of the Cabinet "except for defense and interior ministries," and he would present it Saturday for approval to the 275-member parliament — known as the council of representatives. "Both will be acting (temporary) ministers until we will choose the best ministers for those posts," he said.

AP update:

On Saturday, legislators plan to swear in a new prime minister and Cabinet, completing a democratic transition that began in December with the election of its parliament. A main goal of the new government will be to restore security in Iraq, where sectarian violence and attacks by insurgents and militias have killed many people and led thousands of Iraqi families to flee their homes. The Bush administration hopes that full-scale democracy can unite Iraq's complex mix of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, reduce public support for insurgent groups and militias, and make it possible to begin withdrawing U.S. troops sometime this year. In a speech in Baghdad on Thursday night, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad praised Iraq's outgoing prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and said the inauguration will be a "historic step in Iraq's transition from dictatorship to democracy."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Philadelphia Inquirer: New Iraq leader firmer, even if prospects aren't

AP: President Jalal Talabani met with representatives of seven armed groups and is optimistic they may agree to lay down their weapons, his office said Sunday. It was the first time a senior Iraqi official has acknowledged talks with insurgents.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BBC News: The new Iraqi parliament has held its inaugural session, three months after the general election. The meeting had been brought forward by three days from its postponed date, but the BBC's Jim Muir in Iraq says this is not a sign of accord. Unresolved differences between the parties and wrangling over the top jobs are likely to delay a new government. The short session was held against a backdrop of increasing sectarian violence and predictions of civil war. A pianist played as representatives of the country's main ethnic and religious blocs - many in traditional Arab and Kurdish dress - filed into a convention centre behind the concrete blast walls of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. [...]

Thursday, March 02, 2006

BBC News: Iraq government talks in disarray. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has cancelled a meeting with senior political leaders, apparently to protest against a campaign to oust him. [...continues, but not much more detail...]

Monday, February 27, 2006

Christian Science Monitor: After a weekend of sleepless nights, emergency meetings, and an unprecedented three-day curfew, Iraq has managed to stave off its worst fear after last week's destruction of a major Shiite shrine: That the country's small-scale civil conflict was about to bloom into a bloody and wide-ranging war between its sects. But disturbing signs are emerging that Iraq's sectarian powder-keg is still highly volatile. A pattern of politics drawn along sectarian or ethnic lines has strengthened in the wake of Saddam Hussein's rule. Leading moderate voices like Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have taken harder lines, and the growing authority of unelected clerics in determining Iraq's future is presenting new hurdles to the unity government most experts believe is needed to bring stability. On Saturday night, representatives of militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunni clerics from the powerful Muslim Scholars Association prayed together in a televised ceremony from Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque, a Sunni landmark. The clerics condemned recent attacks on Shiite and Sunni houses of worship and jointly forbade any actions leading to fitnah, or strife among Muslims. Political leaders from all factions, who received a series of personal calls from President Bush on Saturday, echoed those sentiments in a separate meeting. "Last night [at] the meeting between the different political parties, we agreed on some important points that might cool things down, like promises not to attack mosques,'' says Saleh al-Mutlak, a leader of the main Sunni front in parliament. "The general environment was not that bad, they are listening now, [the] Shiites know the civil war will hurt everybody including themselves." [...continues...]

Sunday, February 26, 2006 Iraqi political leaders have agreed to push ahead with US-sponsored efforts to form a government and condemned sectarian violence in an attempt to ease the gravest crisis in postwar Iraq. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shia prime minister, flanked by Kurdish and Arab Sunni leaders, called on Iraqis on Saturday to unite and fight terrorism in a news conference carried live to the nation on state television. With the gravest crisis since the US invasion threatening his plan to withdraw 136,000 troops, George Bush, the US president, made calls to Iraqi leaders on all sides urging them to work together to break a round of attacks sparked by the suspected al-Qaida bombing of a Shia shrine on Wednesday. Those top leaders then met for talks directed at getting plans for a national unity government back on track. Film of the meeting, attended by the US envoy, was broadcast live on state television in a clear effort to defuse sectarian tensions. The White House announced after Bush's calls to Baghdad that: "He [Bush] encouraged them to continue to work together to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the violence to sow discord."

Monday, February 20, 2006

AP reports:

Iraqi political parties have run into major obstacles in talks on a new national unity government, officials said Sunday, raising the possibility of a major delay that would be a setback to U.S. hopes for a significant reduction in troop levels this year. U.S. officials hope a new government that includes representatives of all Iraq's religious and ethnic communities can help calm violence by luring the Sunni Arab minority away from the Sunni-dominated insurgency so that U.S. and other foreign troops can begin to head home.

But prospects for a broad-based coalition taking power soon appeared in doubt after officials from the Shiite and Kurdish blocs told The Associated Press that talks between the two groups had revealed major policy differences. The political parties have decided to negotiate a program for the new government before dividing up Cabinet posts - a step that itself is also bound to prove contentious and time-consuming. Leaders from Iraq's Shiite majority oppose a Kurdish proposal to set up a council to oversee government operations, the officials said. Shiites also reject a Kurdish proposal for major government decisions to be made by consensus among the major parties rather than a majority vote in the Cabinet. "If the position of the Shiite alliance is final, then things will be more complicated and the formation of the government might face delays," Kurdish negotiator Mahmoud Othman said.

Shiites believe the Kurdish proposals would dilute the power that Shiites feel they earned by winning the biggest number of seats in Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. But while Shiite parties control 130 of the 275 seats, that is not enough to govern without partners. "Some parties are trying to undermine efforts to form a new government," Shiite politician Ammar Toamah said. "These blocs should not necessarily participate in government."


Sunday, February 12, 2006

AP update: Shiite lawmakers chose incumbent Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be Iraq's new prime minister Sunday even though his current government has been criticized for not dealing effectively with the Sunni-led insurgency or rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Kurdish leaders expressed concern over the Shiite choice, which marks a key step in forming a government nearly two months after national elections. Al-Jaafari is assured the post because Shiites won the most parliament seats in the Dec. 15 national elections. He won 64 votes in a caucus of Shiite legislators, one more than Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, officials said. There were two abstentions. After parliament convenes within two weeks, members must choose the largely ceremonial position of president, who then will designate the alliance's choice as the new prime minister. Al-Jaafari's designation paves the way for the Shiite alliance to begin talks in earnest with parties representing Sunni Arabs, Kurds, secularists and others to try to form a broad-based government, which the United States hopes can calm the insurgency so American and other foreign troops can begin withdrawing. "Today's victory is not that this one won or that one won, it's the victory of the alliance with its unity and cool head," al-Jaafari said after the vote. [...]

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Washington Post: The Shiite religious coalition that won the most seats in December's parliamentary elections could announce its choice for prime minister as soon as Saturday, politicians said Friday, as Iraq's electoral commission released certified results of the vote. The results, which are final, did not change the expectation that the next prime minister will come from the ranks of the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties, which won 128 out of 275 seats in the Dec. 15 elections. Two candidates from the coalition have taken center stage: Ibrahim Jafari, the current prime minister, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a secular economist who is one of Iraq's two deputy presidents. The alliance is divided, however, among its member parties over which man to put forward, Shiite politicians said. Jafari's support comes from his Dawa party and followers of Moqtada Sadr, a popular cleric. Abdul Mahdi's primary backer is his own party, the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. It is still unclear which way a number of smaller parties in the coalition will swing.

(timeline) AP: What's next for Iraq [after the election results]

Friday, February 10, 2006

AP: Iraq's conservative Shiite United Iraqi Alliance was confirmed as the winner of December's elections, paving the way for the opening of parliament and forming a new government.Chief election commissioner Adel al-Lami read the final certified results of the polls, which were unchanged from provisional ones announced on January 20. Friday's figures for the 275-member parliament gave 128 seats to the conservative Shiite alliance, 53 to the Kurdish Alliance, and 80 to the Joint Council for National Action, an allinace of Sunni and secular groups. The remainder were shared by small parties, most representing ethnic minorities. Boosted by its own results and by the support of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and two MPs close to him, the Shiite alliance, which is dominated by religious parties, will select its prime ministerial candidate Saturday. The two main competitors are current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party and Adel Abdel Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Political parties had filed 24 complaints against the results, which were examined by the Transitional Electoral Panel. Lami said "these did not change the results." The new parliament, which will have more than 25 percent women MPs, is expected to convene within the next 15 days.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

BBC News: The Shia bloc which took the most votes in Iraq's election says it will form a coalition with Sunni groups but only if they do more to combat the insurgency. The United Iraqi Alliance failed to win an absolute majority in December's vote and so must govern in a coalition. An UIA spokesman said it was already reaching out to both Sunnis and Kurds and was ready to negotiate. A national unity government looks much more likely than when the result was announced, says a BBC correspondent. The United Iraqi Alliance took 128 of the 275 seats, Kurdish parties 53 and the main Sunni Arab bloc 44 in the 15 December poll. Some Sunnis still allege poll fraud and may challenge the result. [...]

Saturday, January 21, 2006

AP update:

Iraqi Elections Breakdown [list of facts]

Sunni Arab politicians called for a government of national unity Saturday and signaled they will use their increased numbers in parliament to curb the power of rival Shiites, who have claimed the biggest number of seats in the new legislature. [...] Official returns released Friday from the Dec. 15 national election confirmed that the coalition of Shiite religious parties that dominates the outgoing government again won the biggest number of seats in the new parliament - but not enough to govern without partners. The Shiite alliance took 128 of the 275 seats, the election commission said. An alliance of two Kurdish parties allied with the Shiites in the outgoing government won 53 seats. Sunni Arabs, virtually shut out of the current assembly, scored major gains, opening the door to a greater role in government for the community at the heart of the insurgency. The Friday announcement paves the way for intensive negotiations to form a new government. U.S. officials are urging formation of a broad-based government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, hoping that will lure insurgents away from violence so that U.S. and other foreign troops can begin withdrawing. In separate press conferences Saturday, two leading Sunni Arab politicians expressed their interest in joining a coalition government. But they made clear they will insist on curbing the trend toward sectarianism, which many Sunnis blame on policies of the outgoing government led by Shiites and Kurds. [...]

Ayad Allawi looks like the poster child for America's vision for Iraq - secular, pro-Western, tough on terrorism. To Iraqis, the former prime minister and other secular figures proved less attractive. That underscores a truism: In the new Iraq, politics and religion go hand in hand. Allawi's ticket, which included prominent Sunnis and Shiites, won only 25 of the 275 seats in the December election, according to results announced Friday. That represented a 38 percent loss from the number of seats won by Allawi's ticket in January 2005 - although the former prime minister himself was elected to parliament. However, another prominent secular Shiite and former Washington favorite, Ahmad Chalabi, didn't even win a seat. Instead, the voters turned to candidates who ran under a religious - or in the case of the Kurds, an ethnic - label. [...]

Friday, January 20, 2006

BBC: Iraq's Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance has won the country's parliamentary elections, but failed to obtain an absolute majority. The alliance took 128 of the 275 seats - 10 short of an outright majority. Kurdish parties have 53 seats and the main Sunni Arab bloc 44. The Shias will now be expected to form a coalition government.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday, January 08, 2006

AP reports: U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday said the United States will not be successful in Iraq unless the political landscape better represents the country's minorities. Obama, the nation's only black senator, met with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Saturday. He said before his two-day trip to Iraq that he wanted to ask U.S. commanders for a realistic time frame on bringing troops home. "What I'm fully convinced of is if we don't see signs of political progress ... over a relatively short time frame - let's say six months or so - we can pour money and troops in here till the cows come home, but we won't be successful," said Obama, D-Ill., who said he opposed the war before it began. Talabani predicted Saturday that a new government could be formed within weeks and said the country's main political groups had agreed in principle on a national unity coalition that would include the country's majority Shiites and minority Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Obama said he was confident a new government could be formed but was skeptical of Talabani's time frame. [...]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

AP reports: Final results from last month's parliamentary elections might not be announced for two more weeks, an official said Tuesday, a day after Iraq's main Sunni Arab group agreed on broad outlines for a coalition government. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has completed its investigation of almost 2,000 election complaints and will announce the findings Wednesday, commission member Hussein Hindawi told The Associated Press. But the commission won't announce final election results until an international team finishes its work, meaning results might not be ready for two weeks, said commission member Safwat Rashid. Officials previously said final results of the Dec. 15 vote would be announced in early January. The commission investigated 1,980 complaints, including 50 that were considered serious enough to alter results in some districts, an election official said. [...]

BBC News reports: A team of international monitors in Iraq have begun to review complaints of fraud and voter intimidation during last month's parliamentary elections. The International Mission for Iraqi Elections is expected to spend several days studying the allegations made by many Sunni Arab and secular parties. Early results suggest the governing Shia and Kurdish alliances have won the majority of votes. The final results are expected once the monitors have completed their review. The United Nations has said the poll was transparent and fair, and that a rerun would not be necessary. [...]

AP reports: Iraq's main Sunni Arab group made an unprecedented trip north to see the Kurds and agreed Monday for the first time on broad outlines for a coalition government - possibly opening a way out of the political turmoil that has gripped the country since disputed elections. A promise of Iraqi army protection for tanker truck drivers reopened the country's main refinery - a last-ditch effort by the Shiite-led government to avert a fuel crisis that has led to deadly riots and the oil minister's resignation. As part of the bargaining for a new coalition government, President Jalal Talabani assured Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that his fellow Kurds would not object if the United Iraqi Alliance - the Shiite religious bloc that won the most votes in the election - again nominates him for the prime minister post. [...]

Monday, January 02, 2006

Zaman Online (Turkey) reports: Although the final results of the general elections in Iraq have not been revealed, Shiites and Kurds, which are expected to take the first and the second places in the elections, reached a consensus about establishing a government. London Centered Al-Hayat Newspaper wrote Kurds and United Shiite Alliance leader Abdulaziz al-Hakim, who made negotiations in Suleymaniye, reached a consensus on some principles. According to the news, al-Hakim and Iraq’s Kurdish President, Jalal Talabani, reached an agreement on the following issues: The constitution which was subject to referendum on October 15 will not change. The federalist system will be applied in the North, Middle and South of the country. The studies to pull the successful groups in the elections in the Kurdish-Shiite Government will continue. The newspaper noted this consensus may divide Sunnis, who opposed the constitution and federalist structure and participated in the elections for this particular reason. Sunni Arabs, who defend there were irregularities in the October 15 elections, and secular Shiite groups announced they will not negotiate with conservative Shiites, who are winners of the elections, to establish a government. Meanwhile, Iraqi Vice President Ahmed Celebi, who is a former favorite of the US, still has a chance to enter the Parliament. Celebi’s spokesman Musavi said “We have some sensations that we will have at least one chair in the parliament.” [...]

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A delegation from Iraq's main Sunni Arab group planned to meet with senior Kurdish officials Sunday as political factions ponder the options for forming a coalition government. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite Arab, also was traveling to Iraq's Kurdish region to meet with regional President Massoud Barzani, the head of one of the two main Kurdish political parties. It was unclear if a three-way meeting between al-Jaafari, Sunnis and Kurds would take place. The visit by a Sunni Arab delegation to Iraq's northern Kurdish region would be the first such trip since the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, whose results have been contested by Sunni groups and secular parties. The discussions come at a critical time for Iraq, with the United States placing high hopes on forming a broad-based coalition government that will provide the fledgling democracy with the stability and security it needs to allow American troops to begin returning home. [...]