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Iraq delays parliament session, new PM proposed

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Apr 16 (Reuters) A scheduled Monday session of Iraq's parliament was postponed by the acting speaker today, further delaying the formation of a government already held up by four months of wrangling by political groups.

Adnan Pachachi made the decision after Iraq's Shi'ite Alliance proposed a new nominee for prime minister but said it opposed the main Sunni Arab grouping's candidate for parliamentary speaker, raising a possible new crisis.

After four months of resisting Kurdish and Sunni opposition to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee for the top government job, the Alliance put forward Dawa party leader Ali al-Adeeb, officials in the Shi'ite bloc said.

Although the Alliance has not officially withdrawn Jaafari's name, the premiership move could end the months of political paralysis that Washington has blamed for fuelling increased sectarian violence betweeen Sunnis and the majority Shi'ites.

But Iraqi leaders could be headed for a new impasse over Tareq al-Hashemi, whom the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front has nominated as speaker of parliament.

Monday's parliamentary session, which Pachachi delayed for a ''few days'', had raised hopes politicians would bury differences and choose a national unity government, widely seen as the best chance of averting a sectarian civil war.

''The Alliance has floated Ali al-Adeeb as its candidate for prime minister. But if the Alliance does not drop its opposition to Hashemi as parliament speaker the parliament session will be delayed,'' said an Alliance official, declining to be named.

Adeeb is not well known in Iraq but political sources said the Alliance opted for him because, unlike other candidates, he was not considered sectarian.

New violence erupted in Iraq, showing Iraqi leaders were still unable to curb violence after national elections in December they promised would deliver stability.

A suicide bomber in a car killed at least 11 people and wounded 23 near a market in the town of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, a police official said.

Near Baquba, north of Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Iraqis, killing at least five people and wounding four, police said.

In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed seven men working for the Iraqi police department in the the northern city of Mosul.

A car bomb exploded near a mosque in Baghdad, killing four people and wounding seven.

Even if political obstacles are overcome, no government will have any easy solutions to a Sunni insurgency and sectarian bloodshed that have scared away foreign investors from the major oil producer's economy.

Earlier, Pachachi told Reuters failure to reach a last-minute deal on top government positions before Monday could delay a new government for at least another month and force parties to choose a parliament speaker, a presidential council and prime minister in stages.

Months of wrangling have hurt the credibility of Iraqi leaders, who have struggled to keep Iraq from sliding into open civil war since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine.

Alliance official Khaled al-Attiya said on state television it would be useless to convene parliament unless all parties reached agreement on top government posts.

''We are waiting for the nominees of the other political blocs for the positions of president and vice president and speaker,'' he told reporters.

''If this mission is not complete, what is the use of convening a session? I think it will be postponed.'' REUTERS CH KN2215

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