* PM-designate says new government to agree "clear vision"
* Abadi faces tough task overcoming sectarian divisions
* Suicide bomber kills at least nine in Baghdad
* Car bomb attacks also hit Karbala, Hilla on Monday
(Adds bomb attacks south of Baghdad, Islamic State claim of
responsibility for weekend attacks in north)
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, Aug 25 Iraq's Prime Minister-designate
Haider al-Abadi said on Monday he was optimistic about forming a
new government soon with a "clear vision", but fresh bomb
attacks in Baghdad and other cities underlined the country's
deepening sectarian conflict.
Abadi is tasked with forming a power-sharing administration
that can ease tensions and counter Islamic State militants who
pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since a U.S.-led
invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"The talks to form the government were positive and
constructive. I hope in the next two coming days to agree on a
clear vision of a unified programme for the government," he
Shortly after Abadi spoke, a suicide bomb attack in a
Shi'ite mosque in Baghdad killed at least nine people and
wounded 21, police and medical sources said.
The attacker detonated his suicide bomb vest inside the
mosque in the New Baghdad district of the capital at prayer
time, police said.
Two car bombs were also detonated in the Shi'ite holy city
of Karbala on Monday, killing four people and wounding 17,
police and medical sources said. An additional two car bombs
targeted the city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, but there were no
fatalities or injuries, police sources said.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for four car bombs
in northern Iraq on Saturday, three of them in the city of
Kirkuk, where Kurdish fighters have flocked since Iraqi army
units quit their posts in June, and one in Arbil, capital of the
autonomous Kurdish region.
The militant group said the attacks were in response to
Kurdish forces joining the U.S. military to attack them.
Abadi, keen to reassert Baghdad's authority over his fraying
nation, emphasized in his comments on Monday he would not
tolerate armed groups operating outside government control.
"We will not allow the formation of armed groups outside the
control of the state," he said.
Abadi added that arms reaching the Kurdish peshmerga forces
battling Islamic State militants in the north had passed through
the central government.
Many ordinary Iraqis have expressed concern about the
unchecked growth of violent militia groups in recent weeks, some
of whom have been accused of targeting civilians.
In June, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shi'ite
cleric, urged Iraqis to defend the country against the onslaught
of Islamic State militants. As a result thousands of volunteers,
many of them Shi'ites, joined militia groups which are now only
nominally under the control of the Baghdad government.
Shi'ite militants are suspected of carrying out an attack on
a Sunni mosque in Diyala province north of Baghdad last Friday
that killed 68 and wounded dozens.
The central government has issued arrest warrants for four
local tribesmen suspected of carrying out the attack after an
investigation, Abadi said on Monday.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, a key ally of
the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government, visited the holy city of
Najaf for talks with Sistani and other senior Shi'ite clerics,
local officials said.
Sistani played a key role in helping to resolve Iraq's
recent political crisis by implicitly urging former prime
minister Nouri al Maliki to step down. Maliki, a Shi'ite, was
widely accused of exacerbating Iraq's sectarian divisions by
excluding Sunni Muslims from positions of influence.
Iran's Zarif also met a handful of Sunni political leaders
in Baghdad on Monday evening to discuss the formation of the new
government, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
(Additional reporting by Kareem Raheem; Writing by Babak
Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Gareth Jones)