Citing the politicians' failure to reach "understanding and
agreement" on nominations for the top three posts in government, the
office of acting speaker Mehdi al-Hafidh said parliament would not
meet again until Aug. 12.
Putting off the work of reaching consensus is a slap in the face to
efforts by Iraq's Shi'ite clergy, the United States, the United
Nations and Iran, who have all urged the swift formation of an
inclusive government to hold the country together.
"We're looking at a dire situation on the ground, which is why it's
so important that things move forward urgently on the ground,” State
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington in
reaction to the delay.
With no signs that Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will
abandon his bid for a third term, his Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish
opponents warn there is a risk that Iraq will fragment along ethnic
and sectarian lines.
"Things are moving faster than the politicians can make decisions,"
a senior Shi'ite member of parliament told Reuters.
The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, and a patchwork of Sunni
insurgents are holding territory they seized in northern and western
Iraq, the majority of it taken last month.
Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in northern Iraq, have
taken advantage of the chaos to expand their territory.
Maliki's opponents blame him for last month's defeats and want him
to step aside. They accuse him of favouring the Shi'ite majority
over the Sunni and Kurdish minorities.
Some hopes remained that parliament would meet again this month,
based on local press comments by Hafidh and other comments by a
senior U.S. official.
Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq, said on
his Twitter feed that Hafidh had clarified that the new date for
parliament to resume work was July 13. But parliament would still be
required to issue a formal statement to change the date.
Maliki said last week that he hoped to overcome the challenges
blocking the formation of a new government after the new
parliament's first session ended without agreement on the top posts
of prime minister, president and parliament speaker.
The Iraqi military, backed by Shi'ite militias and volunteers, has
yet to take back any major cities but is trying to advance on
Tikrit, the late dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown in Salahuddin
The fighting is taking a heavy toll. The United Nations said last
week more than 2,400 Iraqis had been killed in June alone, making
the month by far the deadliest since the height of sectarian warfare
during the U.S. "surge" offensive in 2007.
A senior Iraqi general was killed in fighting with insurgents near
Baghdad on Monday, as the army fights to hold militants back from
Major General Negm Abdullah Ali, commander of the army's sixth
division responsible for defending part of Baghdad, was killed just
16 km (10 miles) northwest of the capital.
A few hours later, four policemen and three civilians were killed by
a suicide bomber at a checkpoint in the mainly Shi'ite Kadhimiya
district of northern Baghdad.
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A bomb exploding at a roadside outdoor cafe killed four people late
on Monday in the Nahrawan area just south of the capital, a police
officer and a medic said.
Top U.S. defence officials said last
week the security forces could defend the capital but would have
difficulty going on the offensive to recapture lost territory,
mainly because of logistic weaknesses.
In the northeastern province of Diyala, Islamic State militants
killed four civilians in the town of Udaim, a police officer said.
Militants killed six civilians including a woman and an elderly man
late on Monday in the village of Zawiya near the northern city of
Baiji when they tried to arrest a local police officer, an
According to the witness, Islamic State fighters accused the
policeman, who escaped, of trying to form a "Sahwa" or "Awakening"
force to rise up against the group.
Sunnis and Kurds blame the National Alliance, the Shi'ite grouping
that includes Maliki's State of Law list, for failing to name a
Most Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the last parliament, saying they
believed the prime minister and president should be chosen along
with the speaker as a package, not one at a time.
With parliament's session a day away, they could not resolve the
impasse, so the acting speaker postponed the meeting.
Shi'ite MP Haidar Abadi of Maliki's State of Law coalition said it
viewed the month-long break as a mistake and said that there would
be "strong pressure" for a meeting before Aug. 12, the date set for
the next session.
Results of April's elections initially suggested parliament would
easily confirm Maliki in power for another term. The loss of the
Sunni regions in the north has created an opening for Maliki's
Some within his own alliance are whispering about the need for him
to step aside, although Maliki has stated publicly he will not give
up his candidacy.
(Additional reporting by Ned Parker and Maggie Fick in Baghdad and
David Alexander and Missy Ryan in Washington; Writing by Maggie
Fick; Editing by Dominic Evans, Tom Heneghan and Lisa Shumaker)
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