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Reports: Iraqi PM Maliki Set to Win Support for Second Term

Iraq's parliament is scheduled to meet Thursday to form a new government amid reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will retain his position after winning support from his main challenger, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition.

Senior Iraqi officials were quoted late Wednesday saying that after days of extensive talks, Iraqiya had agreed to accept the parliament speaker's position and cede Mr. Maliki the prime minister's job. Under the expected agreement, Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani would retain the presidency.

Politicians from Sunni, Kurdish and Shi'ite-backed groups, including a 30-seat breakaway faction from inside the cross-sectarian Iraqiya alliance, indicated they are ready to support Mr. Maliki at Thursday's parliament session and take part in his government.

If confirmed, the deal would break a nearly eight-month impasse that has paralyzed Iraqi state institutions and raised tensions as security forces battle insurgents who have been taking advantage of the deadlock to stoke violence.

The Iraqi parliament's Thursday session will be just the second since inconclusive March 7 elections. Iraq has been without a government since the vote.

Iraqiya, led by former premier Ayad Allawi, won two more seats than Mr. Maliki's bloc but was never able to find the political partners it needed for a majority. That allowed Mr. Maliki, a Shi'ite now partnered with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in an Iranian-backed coalition, to gain momentum and support.

Politicians from Mr. Maliki's Shi'ite merger, the National Alliance, say they will go ahead with government formation as long as they have a political majority, even if other blocs choose to boycott the parliamentary session. Last month, Iraq's high court ordered parliament to resume its sessions, putting pressure on politicians to expedite a deal.

Iraqi media reports say Mr. Allawi returned to the bargaining table in Baghdad Wednesday. The veteran secular Shi'ite politician had stayed away on Tuesday after attending the opening of talks a day earlier. In addition to the speaker's post, Mr. Allawi's coalition has reportedly been offered the presidency of a new National Council for Strategic Policies.