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US confident Iraq now headed for new government

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US confident Iraq now headed for new government

Post  Shilo on Mon May 10, 2010 6:53 am

May 10, 2010 · Posted in NEWS

By Arthur MacMillan (AFP)

BAGHDAD — The United States voiced confidence on Sunday that Iraq was headed towards a new government two months after a deadlocked election, but said no frontrunner had yet emerged to lead the war-torn country.

Electoral officials said results from the nation’s March 7 vote should be certified within a week, with totals from all but one province sent for ratification. A recount in the lone exception, Baghdad, is more than half done.

The release of full results could still hit snags as the status of several successful candidates remains in doubt over their alleged ties to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath Party.

However, Christopher Hill, the US ambassador to Baghdad, said the pace of political progress had “quickened” in the past week and an end was in sight.

“The counting (in Baghdad) is going faster and we do expect it to be over by the end of the week,” he told reporters at a briefing in the Iraqi capital, noting that certification of results before the end of May was possible.

“Obviously, certification is not the beginning of the end but rather the end of the beginning.”

Hill said the merger of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc and the religious Iraqi National Alliance (INA) on Wednesday had created a “Shiite mega party,” but noted that the choice of a new premier was unclear.

“The issue of who will be the prime minister is yet to be determined and obviously it will be a subject of great competition in the weeks ahead,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday, Qassim al-Abboudi, a spokesman for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told AFP that results for 17 of Iraq’s provinces, all except Baghdad, had been sent to the supreme court for approval.

Abboudi added that three of the eight seats reserved for minorities would also be sent to the supreme court for ratification, with five Christian seats and seven national compensatory seats being held back.

The results were sent to the court at the request of the presidency council, made up of President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice presidents.

If all of those results are ratified, 245 of parliament’s 325 seats will have been finalised.

Preliminary nationwide results have shown that the Iraqiya bloc of secular ex-premier Iyad Allawi won the most seats with 91, followed closely by Maliki’s State of Law with 89.

The INA, a coalition led by Shiite religious groups, finished third with 70.

State of Law and the INA’s coalition falls four seats short of a parliamentary majority.

Authorities have, however, been carrying out a manual recount in Baghdad, Iraq’s biggest electoral constituency with 68 of the 325 parliamentary seats up for grabs, since last week.

IHEC chief Faraj al-Haidari, speaking on Iraqiya television, said 6,191 ballot boxes from a total of 11,000 in Baghdad had been recounted and that the job would be completed on Friday.

Preliminary results showed Maliki won 26 seats in the capital to Allawi’s 24, while the INA won 17.

Full results from the parliamentary election were initially expected to be ratified in early April, but counting delays, multiple complaints and appeals from political groups have caused setbacks.

While the battle for power has centred on Maliki and Allawi’s competing blocs, Iraq’s Kurdish parties on Sunday announced a pact to negotiate jointly for posts in the new Baghdad government.

“We have agreed on a full programme for a Kurdish delegation to go and negotiate in Baghdad on our participation in the formation of the new government,” said Massud Barzani, president of Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq.

The Kurdish parties, mainly Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, won 59 seats in the March election.

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