• Sunday, August 31, 2014

Iraq delays key parliament session as fightback falters

Afp, Baghdad

A crucial parliament session kickstarting the government formation process was delayed and shelling killed a general yesterday, as solutions to Iraq's worst crisis in years appeared increasingly distant.
The developments highlighted bickering among political leaders despite calls for unity to counter a jihadist-led offensive that has overrun swathes of territory and which the security forces have struggled to repel.
The swift advance has displaced hundreds of thousands, alarmed the international community and heaped pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a third term in office.
But the government formation process, which international leaders and Iraq's top Shiite cleric have urged be expedited, was dealt a blow when a parliament session scheduled for today was postponed.
Officials and a lawmaker, all speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting was rescheduled for August 12 because MPs could not agree on a new speaker.
More than two months after elections in which Maliki's camp won the most seats, though not a majority, parliament has yet to begin choosing the country's top three positions, which according to an unofficial deal are split between the Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities.
A session last week ended in chaos, with MPs trading heckles and threats before some eventually walked out, forcing an adjournment. The UN's special envoy warned that further delays risked plunging the country into "Syria-like chaos".


Despite telling AFP in a 2011 interview he would not seek a third term, Maliki vowed last week he would not bow to mounting international and domestic pressure to step aside and allow a broader consensus.
Iraqi forces have largely regrouped after the debacle that saw soldiers abandon their positions and, in some cases, even weapons and uniforms as militants led by the Islamic State jihadist group conquered second city Mosul and advanced to within about 80 kilometres (50 miles) of Baghdad.
But while Iraq has received equipment, intelligence and help on the ground from the United States, Russia, Iran and even Shiite militias it once shunned, government efforts to battle the militant offensive were dealt a blow when a senior general was killed in Ibrahim bin Ali yesterday.
Ibrahim bin Ali is in the Abu Ghraib area, just west of Baghdad, near where security forces have been locked in a months-long standoff with militants who have seized the city of Fallujah.
Security forces have for more than a week also tried to retake the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit from a loose alliance of IS fighters, other jihadist groups and former Saddam Hussein loyalists, but have so far failed to do so.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, July 08, 2014

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