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Iraq seeks to build united front

June 26, 2014

Iraq's vice president has called for parliament to meet to begin the formation of a more united government. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed Syrian airstrikes against jihadists over the border.

Members of the Iraqi security forces take their positions during clashes with fighters from Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Ibrahim bin Ali village, west of Baghdad, June 24, 2014. Iraqi army soldiers clashed with militants from the ISIL, west of Baghdad on Tuesday , killing a number of militants and destroying their vehicles. Iraqi forces retook the Ibrahim bin Ali village. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
Image: Reuters

On Thursday, the Iraqi presidency issued a decree for parliament to meet on July 1, with the aim of crafting a government more able to present a united front against militant Islamists.

Vice President Khudeir al-Khuzaie - who is currently acting president - made the decree as the country struggles to deal with an insurgency that has threatened the integrity of Iraq itself. The 328-member parliament would meet to elect a speaker and two deputies, and would be expected to choose a new president within 30 days.

The new president would then ask the largest political bloc to choose a new prime minister to form the new government.

Elections for the parliament took place on April 30. Maliki's Shiite-dominated bloc won the most seats, but he needs support from other groups to govern with a majority.

Political concession from Maliki

On Thursday, Maliki conceded that a political conciliation was needed, along with military action to effectively repel the insurgent offensive by mostly Sunni fighters calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Earlier this month, ISIS - which also operates in Syria, fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad - seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and captured a series of towns stretching southwards to Baghdad.

Maliki had previously called the idea of a national salvation government "a coup against the constitution and the political process." Until now, the Iraqi premier has focused on a military response, shrugging off calls for him to step down and allow the formation of a unity government.

"The first one is work on the ground and military operations against terrorists and their gatherings and the second one is following up on the political process and holding a meeting of the parliament (on time) and electing a head of parliament and a president and forming the government," he said.

On Thursday, Maliki was also quoted as saying that Syrian jets had struck ISIS targets on Syria's side of the border at the Qaim crossing. The Iraqi leader was quoted as saying he "welcomed" any such move by Syria.

Meanwhile the New York Times reported on Wednesday that Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, was flying surveillance drones over Iraq to gather intelligence, and sending military equipment to aid in the country's counterinsurgency efforts.

rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)