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Iraqi politicians meet on govt, but no deal expected

Written by: Staff

Baghdad, Mar 14: Iraqi leaders, under heavy pressure from Washington, began intensive meetings today to form a national unity government ahead of parliament's first session on Thursday, but little breakthrough was expected.

Three months after elections, Iraqi officials have yet to agree on who will lead the government, along with other important posts such as the speaker of parliament and president.

Amid an upsurge in violence, including bombings which killed 52 people in Baghdad on Sunday, the four main blocs in parliament will meet today in yet another bid to reach a deal on forming a broad government widely seen as the best chance of bringing stability to Iraq.

President Jalal Talabani warned political parties yesterday to intensify their efforts to avert a slide to civil war.

Iraqi officials acknowledged today they were running out of time and needed to agree on a new government as soon as possible.

A senior source in the Sunni Accordance Front, the main Sunni political grouping, said the leaders would discuss government posts but would not get into specifics.

''We are not optimistic at all. There will be no results out of this meeting, just preliminary discussions on the speaker, president and prime minister posts,'' he said.

''Nobody is willing to compromise,'' he added.

Underlining the sense of frustration at the failure to move forward, one government source said: ''As long as it does not take us forever to get this government out we will be fine.'' Iraqi officials have been deadlocked on who should lead the government. Sunni Arabs and Kurds have rejected the powerful Shi'ite United Alliance's candidate for the job, interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who they say has done a poor job.

The Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, said it would stick with Jaafari, who was elected in an internal vote last month and has said it will resist all efforts to thwart him.


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