Middle East

Iraqi parliament meeting to elect speaker next week

Opening session of the new Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, 14 June
Image caption Iraq has broken the world record for the length of time it is taking to form the new government

Iraq's parliament will convene on Monday to elect a new speaker and two deputies, nearly eight months after inconclusive elections, officials say.

The move, ordered by the Supreme Court, is being seen as a deadline for Iraqi parties to agree on the new government.

Correspondents say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is likely to keep his job, having won over key Kurdish allies.

Mr Maliki's State of Law bloc won 89 seats in March, two fewer than former PM Iyad Allawi's al-Iraqiyya movement.

Since then, Iraq's parliament has met for just 20 minutes - and the country has set a world record for the longest time taken to form a new government.

Leadership race

"A session will convene on Monday to elect the president of the parliament and his two associates," the caretaker speaker Fouad Masum said in a statement on Wednesday.

At the moment, it looks as though PM Maliki is very likely to keep his job, having slowly won the support of a number of other factions for his nomination, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

The Kurds, who control more than 50 seats, still hold the balance. They seem to be tilting in his direction, but they have not announced anything yet.

The key question is whether the secular al-Iraqiyya coalition headed by Iyad Allawi, which came out narrowly ahead in the inconclusive elections, is somehow included in what is being billed as a government of national partnership, or whether he will form an opposition, says our correspondent.

Since he has the bulk of the Sunni vote behind him, that would be seen as a potentially dangerous development, underlined by the recent upsurge of violence, our correspondent adds.

Fears of violence

On Tuesday night, about a dozen co-ordinated bombs targeted Shia districts across the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing more than 60 people and wounding hundreds.

The attacks came two days after at least 52 people were killed as police stormed a church in Baghdad where hostages were being held.

Analysts say the spike in violence could be a last-ditch attempt by al-Qaeda to exploit the country's political vaccuum.

They warn of more attacks over the weekend as the political negotiations come to a head.

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