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Iraqi PM says He Will Form Broad Coalition Government

Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki says he will put together a large coalition to form the next government. Our correspondent reports for VOA from Cairo about the wrangling between Maliki and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi over who will form the next government.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is on the attack in his political battle to remain in office and form the next Iraqi government. He says he will succeed in putting together a broad coalition in the next few days and will ultimately head the new government.

In a TV interview, Mr. Maliki also blasted the United Nations for not urging Iraq's electoral commission to heed his demand for a manual recount of the March 7 parliamentary election.

Shi'ite politician Ali Faisal al Lani struck another blow at Maliki's top rival, former prime minister Iyad Allawi, by complaining that some newly elected members of parliament, many of whom were on Mr. Allawi's slate, are former Ba'ath Party members:

He says before the election he pointed out to the electoral commission more than 50 candidates who were on the ballot had alleged ties to the Ba'ath Party, but the commission ignored his complaint. Now, he says, six of those candidates have won seats, and the commission must do something.

Al-Lani created a protracted political row, which postponed the parliamentary election from January to March, after charging hundreds of candidates, many of them prominent Sunni politicians, with ties to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. Most were eventually disqualified.

Former prime minister Allawi could see his 91-seat coalition dwindle if Lani's move succeeds in causing disqualifications. He should theoretically get the first chance at forming the new government, since his coalition won two more seats than the al-Maliki coalition.

Related video report by Deborah Block:

Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment says she believes Mr. Maliki is holding more cards than Mr. Allawi and will probably succeed in putting together a coalition:

"Maliki is now saying, more and more, that he is going to present in the next few days a coalition, essentially, which is the obvious coalition, which in a sense we all expect, of [his] State of Law [bloc], the Iraqi National Alliance, the Kurdish Alliance, and [the small Sunni] Tawafaq faction," said Marina Ottaway. "That essentially gives him the seats that he needs. It does not give him a very good coalition in the sense that it is a coalition from which the Sunnis are excluded. That makes for instability, it looks to me."

Ottaway adds she questions Mr. Maliki's ability to hold that coalition together, since many members of the Iraqi National Alliance "have expressed reservations" about him heading the government, and she says Shi'ite Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr has been firm about not accepting Mr. Maliki.

Analyst Joost Hiltermann of the Crisis Group has even stronger doubts than Ottaway, saying he believes it "unlikely" Mr. Maliki will form the next government, even if his coalition does get put together:

"The most likely scenario is probably some kind of re-creation of the current government, with some modifications, but all these parties are still there ... you cannot get around the Shi'ite majority," said Joost Hiltermann. "[It is] unlikely that Maliki will become prime minister again simply because too many people are opposed to him. Allawi will try to take a crack at it, but will not be able to form a coalition government that has enough seats."

Hiltermann says the situation is still very open and the process of forming a new government is at a very early stage.

U.S. military commanders warned before the election that forming a new government "could drag on for weeks" with the possibility of a new surge in sectarian strife.

Two car-bombs in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala Monday also killed and wounded more than four dozen people.