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World News

INTERVIEW - Iraq gov't should be national unity-parliament speaker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq should aim for another national unity government but this time include Iyad Allawi, the top vote-winner in March elections, parliamentary speaker Ayad al-Samarai said.

Forming a new government with all major players on board could take more than two months, Samarai told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.

A new administration had to be broad-based to reflect the will of those who voted in the March 7 parliamentary election as Iraq recovers from war and sectarian fighting, he said.

“I think reality requires that a national unity government should continue,” Samarai said.

The close election results point to drawn-out and potentially divisive talks to form a government. Iraqis had hoped the vote would stabilise the country after years of war and sectarian fighting.

“Disavowing a national unity government on the pretext of voting results alone would be a reason to keep marginalising major factions inside Iraqi society,” he said.

Headed by Allawi, a secular Shi’ite Muslim and former prime minister, Iraqiya finished first with 91 seats.

The State of Law coalition of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has led a national unity government since 2006, trailed with 89. Putting together a government requires 163 seats.

Maliki’s coalition is locked in merger talks with anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads a faction of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) which finished third in the vote.

Such a deal could sideline Allawi, whose allies reject allegations he has ties to former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party.

“Iraqiya should prove that is able to do what it promised (in the election campaign)”, said Samarai, whose own party won only six seats but whose position as speaker makes him a political insider.

“STATE OF CHAOS”

Samarai said: “I am being optimistic in saying that forming the government will take two months, or it may take longer. There will be a state of chaos if we have a legislative vacuum.”

The new government will also face the possible break-up of electoral coalitions once political horse-trading is over and an administration is formed, he said.

“I don’t think these alliances will last long. All these alliances were vessels used to get through the election, they are not integrated structures,” he said.

Samarai’s own Accordance front, which drew support from minority Sunni Muslims, ended with six seats, down sharply from the 44 it garnered in 2005 elections.

He blamed the drop on Allawi, who attracted wide Sunni backing as well as Shi’ite support.

“We don’t have specific stance with a certain party. We are not asking for any position, we are working on issues we promised our supporters that we will work on,” Samarai said.

Writing by Ian Simpson; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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