Iraq Shi'ite party open to alliance with Allawi
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A leading Shi'ite Muslim party said on Thursday it will not join any Iraqi government without Iyad Allawi, a move that could boost the chances of the election winner of becoming a prime minister.
Ammar Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), said his party, with strong ties to Iran, was open to an alliance with Allawi's cross-sectarian Iraqiya list.
The close election results have promised weeks or months of difficult and potentially divisive talks to form a government. Iraqis had hoped the vote would stabilize the country after years of war.
ISCI is part of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), which finished third in the March 7 parliamentary election. Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr heads INA's other major faction. "Putting pressure on Iraqiya is putting pressure on a major part of our (Iraqi) people. We will not take part in any upcoming government without the Iraqiya slate being there," Hakim said in remarks made late on Wednesday and broadcast on Thursday on ISCI's television station.
Iraqiya finished first with 91 seats and the State of Law coalition of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki trailed with 89.
Maliki's coalition is locked in merger talks with Sadr's faction. A deal could lead to the combined group forming the largest bloc in parliament and sidelining Allawi.
Hakim rejected allegations that Allawi, a secular Shi'ite who was prime minister in 2004-2005, had ties to former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party.
"I can't guarantee all the winning candidates for Iraqiya, but I can confirm that Iraqiya as a slate is not Baathist," Hakim said.
A de-Baathification panel has barred six Iraqiya candidates who won seats.
(Writing by Ian Simpson)
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