Shiite leaders have launched talks with Sunni and Kurdish politicians on a national unity government, proposing four candidates to be the next prime minister, a Shiite official said Wednesday, nearly six weeks after Iraq's parliamentary elections.
The talks came amid a spate of sectarian violence, including the killing of a prominent Sunni Arab cleric, that threatens to disrupt the forming of the new government.
The United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite bloc that won the most seats in the Dec. 15 vote, started the talks on the new government Tuesday with the Iraqi Accordance Front, a group of prominent Sunni Arab parties, said Shiite lawmaker Baha al-Aaraji.
The alliance suggested four nominees to be the next prime minister in the government to be announced at the end of the negotiations, which could take weeks, said al-Aaraji, a supporter of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a member of a seven-man committee forming Shiite political policy.
The four include the current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Adil Abdul-Mahdi of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, nuclear physicist Hussein al-Shahrastani and Nadim al-Jabiri of the Fadhila party, a religious group whose spiritual leader is al-Sadr's late father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.
In other recent developments:The U.S. military said Thursday it would release five Iraqi women detainees, a move demanded by the kidnappers of an American reporter to spare her life. The women will be freed Thursday and Friday as part of a group of about 420 Iraqis to be released from military custody after reviews of their cases determined there was no reason to keep holding them. The U.S. military said Wednesday that an American Marine was killed by small-arms fire the day before in Karmah, 80 kilometers west of Baghdad. Kidnappers of two German engineers seized their captives only two days after they had arrived in Iraq, gaining access to their compound by pretending to be soldiers, police said Wednesday. In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been no contact with the kidnappers, and government spokesman Thomas Steg said the reason for the abduction was unknown.The court trying Saddam Hussein cancelled the resumption of his trial Tuesday, delaying the session for five days, after some judges opposed the appointment of a new chief judge in a last-minute shakeup. The latest postponement came a day after a new chief judge was appointed.British and Iraqi forces detained 14 people during morning raids Tuesday aimed at ridding rogue elements from Basra's security services, the British military said.
Ali al-Adeeb, a senior official from al-Jaafari's Dawa Party, warned against choosing a prime minister who will not listen to the views of other government members.
"We don't want a prime ministerial candidate who decides policies on his own but rather sticks to the alliance's declared policies," al-Adeeb said.
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