DAMASCUS (AFP) – Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who is vying to return to the premiership, held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday about his country’s protracted coalition talks, official media said.
It was Allawi’s second meeting with Assad in recent months. The two men met in July, when Allawi also held talks with Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr as part of his efforts to form a government after an inconclusive March 7 election.
Assad told Allawi that Syria would “support any agreement that gets Iraqis out of the current crisis and contribute to the formation of a government of national unity that brings together all the forces represented in parliament,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Allawi spoke of the “enormous confidence Iraqis have in Syria which has kept itself at an equal distance from all Iraqi parties,” SANA added.
The standoff between Allawi and incumbent Nuri al-Maliki over the premiership has dragged on for months sparking growing concern in Washington.
US Vice President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with Allawi on Tuesday to urge him speed up efforts to find a compromise.
“The vice president urged Dr Allawi, as he is urging all Iraqi leaders, to expedite efforts to form an inclusive and legitimate government responsive to the needs of the Iraqi people,” Biden’s office said.
Biden told Allawi that “all four winning coalitions should have the opportunity to play a role in the new government and expressed support for Iraqi consideration of power-sharing arrangements in accordance with the constitution,” it added.
Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, a broadly secular grouping which drew most of its support from Sunni Arab areas, won 91 of the 325 seats in parliament in the March election, two more than Maliki’s State of Law Alliance, a Shiite grouping.
Neither came close to winning an overall majority, and no new government has been formed since, although Allawi insists his grouping should have the first opportunity to form a coalition.
In a statement released late on Friday, Allawi’s bloc ruled out taking part in any new coalition led by the incumbent prime minister.
“Iraqiya believes the current type of government headed by Maliki cannot be repeated, so Iraqiya will not take part in any government headed by him,” it said.