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Iraqi MPs back new government plan

Iraqi MPs have approved an agreement that aims to bring all of the country's feuding political blocs into a new government led by Shia prime minister Nouri Maliki.

But deep disagreements remain about the role to be played by the country's minority Sunnis.

The deal struck this week ended an eight-month impasse, but the agreement appeared on the brink of collapse almost immediately after it was announced because of the deep-rooted distrust that pervades Iraq's sectarian politics.

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc had threatened to boycott Saturday's session to approve the deal after storming out of parliament on Thursday and raising fears the group would abstain from government altogether.

Iraqiya politicians said they had been betrayed by Mr Maliki's Shia coalition, which they fear is trying to deprive them of a significant role in the next government.

Leaders of the major parties met early on Saturday to try to iron out their differences and salvage the deal. When parliament convened later, Iraqiya was present and took part in the parliament vote to approve the power-sharing agreement.

"There was a misunderstanding in the last session," an Iraqiya spokesman told politicians. "We here stress that we will be an active part in producing a national unity government."

There was no immediate tally of how many members attended or voted for the deal, which was described as a general outline for the new government but with few specifics. Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman said it passed by a large margin.

Under the agreement, Mr Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, keep their current posts. Iraqiya, meanwhile, gets the parliament speaker's post as well as the top spot on a council intended to serve as a check on Mr Maliki's powers.


From Belfast Telegraph