Opposition leader agrees to join Maliki Government in Iraq

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Baghdad, Dec.16 (ANI): Over nine months after Iraq's election propelled him to the brink of toppling his main political rival, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and a month after he vowed he would not join the new government, Iraqi politician Ayad Allawi has changed track and agreed to join.

According to the New York Times, Allawi has joined grudgingly and with conditions, warning that an agreement brokered by the United States to form a broad power-sharing coalition government under Maliki's leadership could still collapse.

His joining appears to remove the last major obstacle to Maliki forming a new government, something he must do by law before December 25.

"As long as it doesn't fall apart, as long as there is power sharing, then all of us are committed, and I am personally committed to this," Allawi, 65, said in an interview in his heavily and increasingly fortified office beside Zawra Park.

Much remains uncertain, with negotiations still under way to determine what role and powers Allawi will have as the chairman of a newly created committee to oversee national strategic issues.

Officials predicted that, in keeping with Iraq's politics all year, Maliki would not be able to announce a final deal until the 11th hour.

Allawi, a Shiite who served as an interim prime minister after the American invasion in 2003, led an electoral bloc of secular Shiites and Sunnis that won the largest number of seats in the March 2010 election - 91, compared with 89 won by Maliki's coalition.

But Allawi's bloc, known as Iraqiya, proved unable to forge an alliance with any other parties until it was too late.

Maliki, a dour, marginally popular leader opposed by most of the country's political class, managed to tenaciously rally a majority of seats in the new 325-member Parliament.

He allied with the followers of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr and then with the Kurds, despite the fact that both opposed his re-election to a second term.

That left Allawi with few choices other than to join the new government in a diminished role or to remain in opposition, without the perks and power of elected office, a concept that remains a novelty in Iraq. (ANI)

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