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Iraqis Protest Political Stalemate

Iraqis chant slogans at a rally in Firdos Square in central Baghdad, 08 Oct 2010

More than a thousand people rallied in Iraqi cities Friday, demanding that officials accelerate the process of forming a new government.

Demonstrators gathered in Baghdad and in the southern cities of Karbala and Basra, where they called for an end to the seven-month political stalemate since the March elections produced no clear winner.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's alliance captured the most seats in the March voting, two more than a coalition led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Last week, an Iraqi Shiite alliance that includes anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc announced its support for Mr. Maliki. Its support moves Mr. Maliki closer to the 163-seat majority needed to govern.

Reuters news agency says many of Friday's demonstrators were Sadrists who voiced support for the alliance with the prime minister's coalition.

Earlier this week, U.S. ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said Washington had no preferred candidate.

However, he said there is no clarity on whether the Sadrist movement is a political movement or a militia that uses violence to reach political objectives. He said "a democracy can not tolerate that."

Some information for this report was provided by AP.