Iraq's Sunnis have nominated a candidate to head parliament, a possible first step toward ending the country's political impasse. The UN has warned that Iraq could plunge into chaos if it fails to appoint a government.
Iraq's main Sunni political block nominated Salim al-Jabouri to become parliamentary speaker late on Saturday, signaling that the country's largest religious minority had not given up on forming a new central government in a united Iraq.
According to convention, Iraq's three highest posts are divided up between the country's three main ethno-religious groups. The parliamentary speaker is normally a Sunni, the prime minister a Shiite, and the president a Kurd.
Both the Sunnis and the Kurds have made clear that they will not cooperate with the federal government if incumbent Nouri al-Maliki remains prime minister. Both groups have accused Maliki's Shiite-led Cabinet of ignoring their interests. Some Shiites also oppose the incumbent's bid to hold on to his post, viewing him as a danger to the country's unity.
But Maliki has vowed to not give up on a third term. His State of Law coalition won parliamentary elections in April, but fell well short of the absolute majority needed to form a government on its own.
Parliament adjourned again
UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov has urged Iraqis to overcome their differences for the sake of the nation, warning that Iraq could plunge into choas if it didn't agree on a new government.
"It will only serve the interests of those who seek to divide the people of Iraq and destroy their chances for peace and prosperity," Mladenov said Saturday. "Iraq needs a team that can bring people together."
Iraq's new parliament met on Sunday for all of 30 minutes before adjourning again until next Tuesday, "due to the absence of any agreement on the names of the nominees for the three posts," according to Speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh.
Audiotape from militant leader?
Meanwhile, a former deputy of executed dictator Saddam Hussein has purportedly released an audiotape praising the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). On the recording, a man claiming to be Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri calls for the liberation of Baghdad.
Al-Douri is thought to be the leader of the Naqshbandi Army, an insurgent group made up of loyalists to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
Last month, ISIS captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq. The group has renamed itself the "Islamic State" and declared a caliphate stretching across regions of Iraq and Syria.
slk, ng/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)