New Iraqi parliament to convene June 14

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BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new parliament will finally convene next week, an official said Tuesday, paving the way for the formation of a new government more than three months after nationwide polls.

The June 14 opening of the Council of Representatives comes after Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified the results of the March 7 general election which put ex-premier Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc in the lead, followed closely by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance.

"The president (Jalal Talabani) decided that the parliament will meet on Monday, June 14," Nasir Al-Ani, head of the Iraqi presidency’s office, told AFP.

Once parliament is convened, Iraq’s constitution states that MPs must first select a speaker, and then choose a new president.

The president will then call on the leader of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government, giving him 30 days to do so.

Iraq’s Supreme Court on June 1 ratified the results of the election, confirming initial figures which showed Iraqiya won 91 seats in the 325-member parliament, followed by State of Law’s 89.

The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), led by Shia religious groups, came third with 70, while a bloc of Kurdish parties hold 59 seats.

The court has opined, however, that a coalition agreed before parliament first meets would gain primacy over Iraqiya if it held more combined seats.

Earlier this month, State of Law and the INA announced they would form a post-election coalition, leaving them just short of a majority, though they have yet to formalize the arrangement.

The fact that no clear winner emerged from the election has meant that protracted coalition negotiations have ensued as blocs jockey to form a parliamentary majority.

Full results from the election were initially expected to be ratified in early April, but counting delays, multiple complaints and appeals from political groups have caused setbacks.

The impasse over the formation of a government comes as the US military pulls its troops out of Iraq, in line with the terms of a bilateral security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.

All American combat troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of August, leaving about 50,000 to advise and train their Iraqi counterparts. A complete withdrawal is due by the end of 2011.

Figures released earlier this month, meanwhile, showed that 337 Iraqis died as a result of violence in May, the fourth month this year where the overall death toll was higher than the same month in 2009.

US and Iraqi security officials have warned that a long period of coalition formation could give insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilize the country.


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