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Iraq Transition

Acrimony dominates Iraqi assembly session

Newly elected lawmakers fail to agree on speaker

The Iraqi National Assembly meets for the second time Tuesday. Reporters were later kicked out.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi National Assembly failed to choose a speaker Tuesday after arguments broke out among lawmakers and reporters were ordered to leave the session.

Assembly members expressed outrage that no agreement had been reached after two sessions.

"The Iraqi people who defied the security threats and voted -- what shall we tell them? What is the reason for this delay?" politician Hussein al-Sadr told Reuters. Al-Sadr is a member of the coalition led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Eventually, the assembly's acting speaker ordered reporters out of the session and cut off a video feed from the proceedings. Members then huddled in a closed-door meeting.

A Western diplomat watching the session called the decision to cut the video feed "an embarrassment."

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the interim national security adviser, said he expected the 275-member transitional body to reconvene Sunday and pick a Sunni Arab for speaker before proceeding to choose a president and confirm a prime minister and Cabinet.

Al-Rubaie said the Sunnis have a chance to put forth a consensus candidate before then. If they don't, the assembly will go forward and vote for one of the 17 Sunnis in the assembly.

Hashim al-Hasani, the interim industry and minerals minister and a Sunni, said Sunnis plan to meet over the next few days to decide on a candidate.

The assembly has failed to form a new government since the January 30 election of its members. Naming a speaker was to be the first step forward.

Millions of Iraqi voters risked attacks by insurgents to vote in the election.

Taxi driver Mohammed Ahmed Ali told Reuters: "It is a farce. If they couldn't form a government till now, how will they lead a country?"

On Monday, acrimony heightened when interim President Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab Muslim, declined an invitation to the speaker post by members of the United Iraqi Alliance and Kurdish bloc, which placed first and second, respectively, in the January vote.

Officials from these coalitions had expressed a desire to have a Sunni Arab as speaker, who serves as assembly president, to broaden the Sunnis' participation in the new government.

Most Sunnis, who held power under Saddam Hussein, stayed away from polling places in January. Much of the insurgency is taking place in the so-called Sunni Triangle, west of Baghdad.

Assembly sources said that 80 percent to 90 percent of positions for a new government already have been negotiated, with a few key security posts up for grabs.

Attacks target security forces

Insurgents struck Iraqi security forces Monday, killing the head of a Baghdad police station and four other officers in separate attacks, police said.

Col. Abdul Kahrim Fahad, head of the Balat al-Shouhada police station, and his driver were gunned down in a drive-by shooting.

Earlier Monday, a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi police patrol in southwestern Baghdad, killing one Iraqi policeman and wounding five other people, including three Iraqi police.

In another attack Monday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed three police officers and wounded two civilians south of Baghdad in Musayyab, said Hilla police chief Qais Al-Azzawi. The police were protecting pilgrims walking to the holy Muslim cities of Najaf and Karbala, he said.

Also south of Baghdad in Salman Pak, Iraqi security forces Monday came upon what the U.S. military called "a large terrorist base." The forces encountered light resistance and captured more than 90 suspects, the military said.

Other developments

  • A U.S. soldier was killed Monday in a "nonhostile" incident, the military said. No other details were immediately available. Since the start of the Iraq war, 1,528 U.S. forces have been killed in Iraq.
  • Insurgents armed with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades engaged American soldiers conducting a weapons search in the northern city of Tal Afar on Monday, the military said. The soldiers returned fire and killed one of the insurgents, the military said. During Tuesday operations, the soldiers arrested four people in nearby Mosul. On Monday, five people were arrested south of Mosul and another in Tal Afar.
  • Three Romanian journalists were kidnapped Monday night in Baghdad, said their employer, Prima TV, and a Western security source. (Full story)
  • An independent U.N. investigative committee is expected to clear Secretary-General Kofi Annan of a conflict of interest in the now-defunct Iraqi oil-for-food program. But it is expected to criticize his oversight of the aid program, a source familiar with the report said Monday. (Full story)
  • CNN's Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin, Aneesh Raman and Zoran Stevanovic contributed to this report.

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