September 27, 2010 / 8:35 PM / 9 years ago

Iraq Shi'ites miss deadline on government leader

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A Shi’ite-led political bloc missed its own deadline on Monday to choose a nominee for prime minister, continuing a stalemate that has left Iraq without a new government 6-1/2 months after an inconclusive election.

But the National Alliance, a merger of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance, which is friendly toward Iran, said it could announce a nominee on Tuesday and that party officials were leaning toward Maliki.

“Many parties have no objection to Maliki’s nomination but we want the approval of all parties,” Qusai Abd al-Wahab, a Sadrist leader, said after the meeting, adding that it would continue on Tuesday.

Last week, the alliance had said it would decide on a nominee by Monday.

“Tomorrow, God willing, we will announce a candidate. Talks are continuing as we seek to get a 100 percent consensus,” Ali al-Adeeb, a senior member of Maliki’s Dawa party, said.

The two coalitions have said they intend to merge in parliament, combining State of Law’s 89 seats and INA’s 70 to form a Shi’ite bloc that would be just four seats short of the 163 needed for a governing majority.

But months of talks have failed to produce agreement on a candidate for prime minister, a necessary step toward the formation of a government.

Maliki and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi have been proposed as possible nominees.

The cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition led by secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, which won 91 seats in the election, has said it will not participate in a government headed by Maliki.

Allawi has warned that attempts by the Shi’ite blocs to exclude Iraqiya, which was heavily backed by minority Sunnis, could result in a return to broader violence in Iraq.

Iraqis had hoped the March 7 election would give them more stable governance after years of dictatorship, war and international economic sanctions as the U.S. military draws down its troop strength ahead of a full withdrawal next year.

Politicians and military leaders say insurgents have tried to take advantage of the power vacuum created by stepping up attacks on government officials, the police and the army.

Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Michael Roddy

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