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Iraqi parliament meets next week to choose speaker

From Jomana Karadsheh and Arwa Damon, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • They will convene on Monday
  • The move comes after a court ruling
  • The political jockeying continues amid violence

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- In a step that could help jump-start the formation of a government, Iraq's acting parliament speaker has called for a session next week to choose a speaker and two deputies.

Fouad Massoum asked parliament members to convene on Monday for a vote, according to parliament's press office said.

Massoum said the decision to call a session came after a federal court decision last month that ordered him to pursue the action that would lead to government formation.

Iraqi political blocs have failed to form a government since the March 7 elections, a state of affairs that has increased tensions in the ethnically and religiously diverse country.

With levels of violence steadily rising since the election, most Iraqis have become increasingly frustrated with their politicians and many have blamed recent bloodshed on the stalemate.

While the speaker election may be a step toward getting the political process back in motion, there is little if any indication that talks to form an inclusive government have made any progress.

Parliament has only convened once, for less than 20 minutes on June 14, since it was voted in almost eight months ago.

There has been a delay in forming a government because the various factions haven't been able to agree on who will fill key government posts. But constitutionally, parliament -- known as the Council of Representatives -- must elect a speaker and two deputies in its first session.

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after at least 64 people were killed and hundreds wounded in more than a dozen bombings that struck mostly Shiite parts of the capital.

They were among the largest-scale coordinated attacks in Baghdad since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Since Friday at least 150 Iraqis have been killed in violence, including 58 who died in the siege of a Baghdad church on Sunday by fighters affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq -- one of the worst attacks of the war against Iraq's dwindling Christian minority.

In the March election, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won 89 seats but lost to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's al-Iraqiyya -- which has support among many Sunnis. It received 91 seats. A 163-seat majority out of 325 seats is needed to form a government.

The two leaders since have been jockeying for power.

Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won 39 seats, endorsed al-Maliki for another term in office last month, and he has backing in neighboring Iran, but the prime minister still needs support from other parties.

Allawi, who has been holding talks with many blocs is willing to compromise on his demand for the prime minister position and is negotiating with other parties. Kurdish politicians have not yet aligned themselves with a particular bloc.

Allawi also said that he is still willing to accept an office that would see him hold similar power as the prime minister, a move designed to be a compromise. He said Iranian influence has been a detriment in the political bargaining. Saudi Arabia and Syria have also attempted to use influence in ending the stalemate.

"We are working, we are participating in the negotiations to create a real power-sharing formula that would work for everybody and everybody should be a part of this power sharing agreement and the largest blocs should have a say, an equal say in strategic policies and decisions on security on defense, internal policies such as reconciliation," he told CNN.