Negotiators for the major political groups in Iraq say they plan to reopen the Iraqi parliament by Tuesday and announce the new government's top leaders. Negotiators are trying to include as many groups as possible in the new government, but they are also under pressure from Iraqis who are expressing growing frustration over the delays.
Negotiators for the major Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups say the parliament, which was elected nearly two months ago, but only inaugurated last week, will re-convene in order to elect the senior leaders.
A negotiator for the Shi'ite group, former Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, says negotiators have completed what he calls Phase One, which is a set of principles to guide the formation of the new government.
"We are in Phase Two now, including agreement about the principal [major] positions of the state: the presidential council and the chief of parliament, as well as the prime minister," he said.
The leader of one of the main Kurdish groups, Jalal Talabani, concurred, saying in a [al-Arabiya] television interview that the negotiators have agreed on most of the leadership points.
Mr. Talabani said agreement has been reached on the posts of president and prime minister, and talks continue on the ministerial portfolios.
Reports say agreement has been reached to allocate the presidency to the Kurdish group, the post of prime minister to a Shi'ite leader, and the speaker-of-parliament job to a Sunni.
Shi'ite parties won more than half of the parliamentary seats in the elections in January. The Kurds came in second, with more than one-fourth of the seats.
Both groups say they are keen to include other parties in their government of national unity, especially Arab Sunnis. The Sunnis make up about one-fourth of the population, but won only a few parliamentary seats, because of a boycott of the elections.
A negotiator for the Sunni group, Mishan al-Juburi, says Arab Sunnis are pressing for an influential role in government, despite their relatively small presence in parliament.
He says his group believes it should receive a couple of the important ministries, like Finance and Defense.
The negotiations intensified this past week, after religious leaders warned that the delays were creating a climate of uncertainty that could worsen the security situation in Iraq.
Insurgents opposed to the formation of the new government carried out several suicide car bombings across the country, killing more than a dozen Iraqi security officials and several civilians.
The U.S. military Saturday announced that two American soldiers were killed and two others wounded by a suicide bomber in southern Baghdad. A third U.S. soldier was reportedly killed Friday in central Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Defense Ministry announced that security forces detained 120 suspected insurgents, including some foreigners, and seized tons of explosives south of Baghdad. The ministry said it believes the group was planning attacks during upcoming Arbaeen Shi'ite holy celebrations.