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Negotiations Continue as Iraqi Parliament Prepares to Re-Convene Sunday to Elect Speaker

In Iraq, intense negotiations continue over leadership positions in the new Iraqi government, as members of parliament prepare to reconvene Sunday. The parliament met last week, but failed to agree on who should fill the post of speaker.

Leaders of the Shi'ite coalition that controls more than half of the seats in the Iraqi parliament met Saturday to try to resolve continuing disputes over the speaker-of-parliament job.

General agreement has been reached that the post should go to a representative of the Sunnis, who control fewer than 20 seats, after boycotting last January's elections. But the Shi'ite politicians indicated they would veto the candidate of several dozen Sunni parties, Mishan al-Juburi, in favor of another Sunni.

Mr. Mishan has indicated he will be a candidate anyway.

He acknowledged that the Iraqi people are becoming frustrated over the delays in forming the new government, but said the leaders are trying to build a strong base for the new Iraq, which takes time.

At the last session of parliament, members failed to agree on a speaker after the leading candidate, interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, withdrew his candidacy.

The leaders have agreed that the next Iraqi president should be a Kurd - Kurds won one-fourth of the seats - and the prime minister would be a Shi'ite. However, disagreements reportedly continue over several ministerial portfolios.

An aide to Iraq's most revered cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has mediated previous disputes, Sheikh Abbas al-Zubeidi, said the ayatollah is looking to the new, elected forces in Iraq, including the majority and minority parties, to provide justice.

He called on the various parties to forego their particular demands and work together as brothers for the good of the nation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military Saturday welcomed the fatwa, or religious edict, by a group of 64 Sunni clerics calling for a halt to attacks against Iraqi security forces.

The fatwa, issued by the Association of Muslim Scholars, urged Sunnis to join the police and national guard, but warned them to avoid helping what it called those who have caused chaos in the country.

Sunni opponents of the transitional government and the U.S.-led coalition are said to form the backbone of the insurgency, which has killed thousands of Iraqis and 1,200 foreign soldiers. Officials hope the edict will boost the standing of Iraq's fledgling security forces, which lately have borne the brunt of the attacks.

In the latest violence, a car bomb exploded in a town north of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi policemen and a civilian bystander. The U.S. military also reported that a Marine was killed Friday in the western city of Ramadi.