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Iraqi Bid To End Impasse

Leader Postpones Parliament Session

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 17, 2006; A01


BAGHDAD, April 16 -- Iraq's top legislator postponed the meeting of parliament scheduled for Monday, putting off "for a few days" an attempt to resolve a months-long deadlock over the formation of the country's new government.

The move was not entirely unexpected, but it still represented a setback for U.S. officials and an Iraqi public losing patience with four months of political paralysis since Dec. 15, when the country held elections to form a long-term government.

The delay coincided with a surge in sectarian killings between Iraq's Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims. At least 37 Iraqis died in shootings, bombings and other attacks Sunday, according to police officials and news reports. U.S. military officials also reported killing five insurgents in a raid in which a woman also was killed, and said four Marines were killed in combat west of Baghdad.

The Marines, from Regimental Combat Team 5, were killed in two engagements in Anbar province, officials said.

The biggest sticking point in the political process is whether incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari will serve a new four-year term. The leading coalition of Shiite parties nominated Jafari in a close vote, but Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and even some Shiites are now demanding an alternate candidate, saying Jafari is a weak leader. In recent days, some officials in the Shiite alliance said they had agreed to replace Jafari as part of a larger deal over who would hold the various positions in the government.

When Adnan al-Pachachi, the acting speaker of parliament, called on Wednesday for a meeting to resolve the impasse, he said it was with the intention of pushing all sides toward accommodation by setting Monday as a deadline. But as politicians from each group continued to hold closed-door meetings Sunday, Pachachi announced that the parliament meeting would be delayed "for a few days."

Politicians in the Shiite alliance said they wanted to present a complete package of nominees that resolved not only the Jafari question but also who would serve as the president and the two deputy presidents. By Sunday night the matter appeared to be unresolved.

Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an adviser to Jafari, said it was "still in dispute." He added that one of the leading candidates to replace Jafari was Ali al-Adeeb, a Shiite from Jafari's party. Adeeb appeared to have more support from Sunni Arabs, Kurds and secular parties than he did from his own Shiite alliance, Kadhimi said.

The Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, also identified Adeeb as one of the leading candidates in an interview on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer."

Kadhimi said that Jalal Talabani, the incumbent president and a Kurd, was likely to remain in office. He also said that Ayad Allawi, a secular leader, and Adnan al-Dulaimi and Saleh al-Mutlak, both Sunni Arabs, were being bandied about as candidates for the two deputy presidents' slots.

Mutlak acknowledged that he was in the running for deputy president. But he predicted negotiations would go on for weeks, and called Adeeb "an Iranian" -- considered by many to be a grave insult in a country that fought an eight-year war with the neighboring Shiite theocracy in the 1980s.

"All of them are the same," Mutlak said of the Shiite candidates for prime minister. "They are not qualified to run the country. But nobody listens to us."

Meanwhile, a car bomb killed 11 people in Mahmudiyah, a town about 15 miles south of Baghdad. The bomb exploded in a busy food and vegetable market in the morning, police Lt. Col. Abdullah al-Dulaimi said. Many of the shops were left ablaze after the blast and at least four civilian cars were seen in flames, he said.

U.S. military authorities reported killing five insurgents and capturing a suspected al-Qaeda member and four other suspects during a pre-dawn raid in the town of Yusufiyah, south of the capital. A woman was killed in the crossfire and four other women and children were wounded, the military said in a statement. Five soldiers were lightly wounded.

Special correspondents Naseer Nouri, K.I. Ibrahim, Omar Fekeiki and Bassam Sebti in Baghdad, Hassan Shammari in Baqubah and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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