Iraqi Parliament, And Maliki's Fate, Float In Limbo

Iraq's new parliament met for the first time Tuesday to start the process of forming a new government, which might no longer include Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as its leader.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. With Iraq in crisis under the onslaught of Sunni extremists, the country's government is unable to pull together. A meeting of the Iraqi parliament fell apart today, and the issues before the body are critical for the government to function. The parliament was elected back in April, but members still have yet to agree on a speaker, a president and a prime minister. NPR's Alice Fordham is in Baghdad.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: The parliament session ended without appointing any of the three key posts. After swearing an oath of loyalty, parliamentarians immediately became embroiled in an argument over salary payments. The meeting adjourned. When members returned half an hour later, so many people had left that there was no longer a quorum. The meeting was postponed until July 8, and members left, arguing ferociously. The incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, swept out of the building. As large parts of Iraq have fallen under the control of Sunni militants, support for him has ebbed. Maliki's a Shiite, as are most Iraqis, and the next prime minister will be Shiite, too. A Shiite lawmaker, Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulloum, says that the Shiite parties have been meeting nightly to discuss the successor.

IBRAHIM BAHR AL-ULLOUM: They are very close to reach a candidate, or maybe they do have the candidate, but they don't announce it now. So the problem is, today, I think could be solved within a few days.

FORDHAM: But a speaker must also be appointed. By consensus, this will be drawn from Iraq's minority Sunnis. One Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlak, says he hopes to extract promises to address Sunni grievances before choosing a speaker.

SALEH AL-MUTLAK: So in a week or two, probably, we can manage to name the speaker - if there is a readiness from the other side, to name the new prime minister.

FORDHAM: The delays drew an irate response from the United Nations envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov. Politicians need to realize that it is no longer business as usual, he said in a statement. In the meantime, the leader of the violent extremists spearheading land-grabs in much of Iraq declared himself head of a new state and called for Muslims to help him build it. Alice Fordham. NPR News, Baghdad.

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