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Iraqi Foreign Minister Says Forming Government Urgent


Iraq's foreign minister says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have conveyed their impatience with the slow formation of an Iraqi government. The message was delivered during a surprise visit the two western officials made to Baghdad.

Iraqis voted in Parliamentary elections in December, but more than three months later, political wrangling has hampered the formation of a unity government.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN's Late Edition television program that this issue was the priority of a two-part message delivered by Secretary of State Rice and British Foreign Secretary Straw.

"One, there is a sense of urgency to form this new Iraqi national unity government," said Hoshyar Zebari. "And, second is, there is a sense of impatience back in Washington and London about the delay in the formation of this government. And, they were urging us, as well as all the other Iraqi leaders, to accelerate efforts to form this government."

Zebari acknowledged that the main stumbling block is disagreement over the nomination of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to continue in this position.

"There are a number of parliamentary blocks, who raised questions about him [Jaafari] leading the next full term government, for four years," he said. "And, all the main parliamentary blocks have written to the main United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia block, to reconsider his nomination. But, still, there is a deadlock on this."

He adds that the dominant Shi'ite block still strongly supports Prime Minister Jaafari.

"And they have not changed views and opinion on him," he noted. "They believe that, if Jaafari goes, they go. That is why it is not an easy issue. This - we tried over the last few weeks to resolve this issue amicably, by consensus. But it seems that the issue will not be resolved, and it will go to the Parliament, to be settled there."

Kurdish and Sunni leaders say Prime Minister Jaafari has failed to stem Iraq's insurgency.

Secretary of State Rice and Foreign Secretary Straw met with top Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, amid tight security, in a joint effort to encourage speedy resolution of the political process.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, said lack of progress there is directly related to dwindling support among Americans for continued U.S. involvement there. He spoke on the NBC television program, Meet the Press.

"I think the American people are very nervous," said John McCain. "They are disappointed with our lack of progress, and that is why we have got to show progress."

He also urged Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences, calling the failure to agree on a government a "great impediment to real progress in Iraq."

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