Iraq's fractious parliament yest4erday met and again failed to make any progress toward forming a new government, even as militants gained ground north of Baghdad in a renewed drive.
World powers and Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have been piling pressure on MPs to put aside their differences, with the country facing a major jihadist-led onslaught that has overrun chunks of five provinces.
But "no type of agreement was reached... between the various blocs" at yesterday's session, which was adjourned to tomorrow, acting parliament speaker Mahdi Hafez announced.
The latest stalemate came despite the announcement late Saturday of an agreement among Sunni Arab lawmakers on a candidate for speaker, a post traditionally held by the minority group that must be filled before the government formation process can go ahead.
Parliament's United for Change, a Sunni grouping, said Dr Salim al-Juburi had been selected, but it went on to pledge not to accept incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki for a third term.
The UN's Iraq envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, had warned that "failing to move forward on electing a new speaker, a new president and a new government risks plunging the country into chaos".
Sunday's session was the second time parliament has completely failed to make progress.
A July 1 meeting broke down when MPs traded barbs and enough failed to return after a break that the legislature was left short of a quorum.
As the highly paid deputies kept up their squabbling, militants launched a renewed push, seizing two towns northeast of Baghdad, while major attacks west of the capital were stymied by security forces and allied tribesmen.
Militants attacked the town of Dhuluiyah, just 80 kilometres north of Baghdad, overrunning more than half of it and bombing three police stations, the local council headquarters, a court and a bridge, officials said.
Six people, among them four policemen, were killed in the violence. Bombings and shelling in the Baghdad area and Diyala province killed at least six more people, including a police brigadier general, officials said.
In a sign of Washington's concern, Vice President Joe Biden Saturday spoke by phone with Barzani and Nujaifi about the need for "all Iraqi political forces" to work to form a new government as soon as possible, the White House said.
It is hoped a new more inclusive government will help drain resentment among Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs that plays into the hands of militant groups.