x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iraq's new parliament convenes

Iraq's new parliament convenes but postpones a decision on a new president.

BAGHDAD // Iraq's new parliament convened today but postponed a decision on a new president as the country remains in political limbo three months after inconclusive national elections. The sides remain divided over the formation of a new government, and analysts and some lawmakers warn that a decision could still be months away. Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is battling to keep his job after the rival Sunni-backed Iraqiya list won the most votes in the March 7 balloting.

In parliament, Mr al-Maliki watched as his chief rival Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya bloc, and other lawmakers stood to take the oath of office in Arabic and Kurdish. The speaker, Fouad Massoum, then adjourned the session, saying a president would be chosen at a later time because the parties needed more time to discuss the issue. "We found out that the blocs and the lawmakers need more time for discussions to choose the members of the presidential council," Mr Massoum said.

The session began amid heightened security, a day after insurgents stormed the country's central bank in a coordinated attack that left more than 20 people dead. Persistent violence has raised fears that Al Qa'eda in Iraq and other militants are trying to exploit the political deadlock to foment unrest and derail security gains as the US military prepares to withdraw by the end of next year. *AP