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Iraq parliament to convene for government vote

AFP , Sunday 7 Sep 2014
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad August 25, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Iraq's parliament is to meet on Monday to vote on a new government in a key moment for the country which is battling to regain territory from jihadist-led militants.

"The Council of Representatives will hold a session... to form the government," said an invitation from parliament for media to attend.

If a government is not agreed, this will mean a return to the start of the contentious process, leaving Iraq rudderless at a time of crisis.

Government formation got off to a rocky start.

Incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki accused President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution by approving the nomination of Haidar al-Abadi instead of him to form the next government, and threatened to sue.

Maliki eventually agreed to step aside, leaving Abadi to cobble together a cabinet on which Iraq's sharply divided politicians could agree.

Abadi said on his Twitter account on Saturday that "cabinet formation is in its final stages", but that the process had been held up by blocs that either delayed presenting candidates or nominated people who were unqualified.

Maliki's website on the same day said that the negotiations were "overshadowed by party and sectarian and nationalist rivalry, and the national spirit was unfortunately absent".

One apparent point of contention was the Badr bloc -- which has a powerful associated militia that is close to Iran -- angling for the defence ministry.

The process of forming a new government comes at a critical time as Iraq fights to retake large areas of territory lost to a sweeping June militant offensive.

There have been repeated calls from the international community, including the United States, for a broad-based government to help confront the militants.

But while this would ensure that all sides are represented, similar arrangements in the past have led to deadlock that has helped undermine government effectiveness.

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