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Iraqi PM-designate says government formation talks underway - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Haider Al-Abadi (L), and Iraq’s parliament speaker, Salim Al-Jabouri, attend a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq on July 15, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmed Saad)

Haider Al-Abadi (L), and Iraq’s parliament speaker, Salim Al-Jabouri, attend a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq on July 15, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmed Saad)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Al-Awsat—Iraqi prime minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi has called on the country’s political blocs to begin talks on distributing ministerial portfolios in the new Iraqi government.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Abadi said talks about the formation of the cabinet are already underway, calling on “political blocs to assign representatives to negotiate and agree on ministerial portfolios.”

“Strenuous efforts are being undertaken in order to establish a strong government based on competence and integrity and to help rescue the country from the crises and problems it is facing on a security, political and economic level,” Abadi said.

Abadi has just 30 days to form a new government, with outgoing Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki saying he won’t step down until an appeal against Abadi’s appointment has been heard in court.

In a televised speech, also on Wednesday, Maliki said: “I confirm that the government will continue and there will not be a replacement for it without a decision from the Federal Court.”

In a clear sign of its support of Abadi, the political bureau of the Shi’ite-led Islamic Da’wa Party issued a statement on Wednesday maintaining that its members have “unanimously” nominated the former engineer for the position of prime minister, adding that this decision was taken based on fears that the premiership would fall out of the State of Law coalition’s hands.

“Due to the constitutional vacuum, we had to choose Abadi for the post,” a member of the Islamic Da’wa Party’s politburo, Salah Abdel Razzaq, said.

Abadi’s nomination appears to have won the support of key Sunni and Kurdish political actors in Iraq.

Mohamed Al-Khalidi, a senior figure in the Sunni-led Mutahidoun bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is difficult to return to the pre-June 10 period,” in a reference to the date that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters captured the northern city of Mosul.

“I think everyone, including the Americans and the Iranians, realize this now. And this has led to support for a new figure to be tasked with forming a new government,” he added.

Khalidi explained that “regardless of [his] tragic mistakes which led to the fall of Mosul,” Maliki neglected the legitimate demands of Iraq’s Sunnis.

“We, Sunni Arabs, have our demands which are no longer possible to forfeit after all the sacrifices we have made,” he said.

According to Khalidi, Sunni opposition to Maliki was not based on personal bias, but on Maliki’s “wrong approach” towards Sunni issues. “This is what we have to stress in our negotiations [with Abadi] which will be based on the concept of partnership rather than participation,” he added.

For his part, a senior Kurdish figure Moayed Al-Tayeb told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Kurds will cooperate with Mr. Abadi in forming the government . . . in accordance with the Iraqi constitution which Maliki unfortunately ignored.”

“Kurdish blocs are now considering the next steps with regards to the cabinet and other issues,” he added.