Iraqi parliament to hold first session on June 14
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday called the first session of Iraq's new parliament for June 14, more than three months after an inconclusive election that has yet to yield a government.
Iraq's Supreme Court ratified the result of the March 7 election a week ago, affirming the narrow victory of a cross-sectarian coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
But his Iraqiya alliance fell short of a majority, forcing tense negotiations between fractious Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish blocs to form a government.
"Yes, the (parliament) session will be held on Monday," Naseer al-Ani, Talabani's chief of staff, told Reuters.
Analysts warn that some months may yet be needed to form a government, taking Iraq into the next phase of U.S. withdrawal as Washington cuts troop numbers from just under 90,000 to 50,000 by September 1.
Insurgents appear to be exploiting the power vacuum. There has been a spike in civilian casualties in April and May and a spate of attacks targeting police officers, government officials and Sunni ex-insurgents who switched sides to fight al Qaeda.
Iraqiya won with the heavy backing of the Sunni minority, but is being challenged for the right to form the government by the two main Shi'ite blocs of incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The two have announced a tie-up, but are squabbling over who should be prime minister. A coalition of the two would still fall four seats short of a majority in the 325-seat parliament.
Overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since the worst days of sectarian bloodshed in 2006-07, but bombings and shootings remain a common occurrence.
Allawi has warned that Iraq risks sliding back into sectarian war if his bloc is left out of government.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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