03/07/2005, 00.00
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Opening of National Assembly set

Iraq's new parliament will meet for the first time on March 16. Deal for a working majority is near, say political leaders.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The opening of the historic first session of Iraq's parliament will take place on March 16, this according to Barham Saleh, a newly elected Kurdish lawmaker. The date was set yesterday after ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the Shiite coalition to act. The religious leader called on all Iraqis to overcome their differences and go beyond negotiations to start governing the country.

Five weeks after the elections, the lack of an agreement had started raising fears that violence might get out of control.

Jawad Maliky, an important member of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), and Ibrahim Jaafari, from the Dawa Party and the Shiite candidate to the post of Prime Minister, said that the formation of a coalition government was near. "We have decided the date," they said, "because we are convinced that before the 16 an agreement will be reached by the various political parties".

Maliky also spoke about the Sunnis who largely boycotted the elections. "Despite the low turnout, Sunnis want to take part in the new government and have presented a long list of names of people who could join the democratic government".

The UIA won 141 in the 275-seat National Assembly. The Kurdish alliance came in second. Since the election of the president and the two vice-presidents requires a two-third majority, the role of Kurdish members is fundamental.

The first task of the new parliament will be to elect its own president. The second task will be to elect the country's president who will appoint the Prime Minister, who in turn will choose government ministers.

March 16 is also the 17th anniversary of the massacre in Halabja in northern Iraq when Iraqi forces exterminated the town's predominantly Kurdish population using poisonous gas.

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See also
Request to stop Muqtada al-Sadr through Al-Sistani's mediation
Constitutional talks to begin homestretch
Al-Jafaari named new premier
New Iraqi parliament opens
Talks on new Iraq government back on


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