BAGHDAD - Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that he hoped to overcome the challenges blocking the formation of a new government, a day after the new parliament's first session ended without agreement on top government posts.
"A state of weakness occurred but God willing in the next session [planned for next Tuesday] we will overcome it with cooperation and agreement and openness… in choosing the individuals and the mechanisms that will result in a political process based on… democratic mechanisms," said Maliki in his weekly televised address.
Sunnis and Kurds abandoned the first meeting of the new parliament after Shi'ites failed to nominate a candidate for prime minister. The Shi'ite parties are deadlocked over Maliki's ambitions for a third term, and who would replace him.
The new parliament adjourned Tuesday, with plans to meet one week later, if an agreement on posts was reached.
In what appeared to be a bid to peel away some of the extremist group's allies among Iraq's Sunni tribes, Maliki also offered an amnesty to tribes who fought the government, but excluded those who had "killed and shed blood."
"I announce the offer of the amnesty pardon for all tribes and for all people who were involved in acting against state to return to their sanity, and they are welcome. We will not exclude anyone except those who killed and shed blood," Maliki said in his weekly address.
The United States, United Nations, Iran and Iraq's own Shi'ite clergy have pushed hard for politicians to come up with an inclusive government to save the country after Sunni insurgents seized large stretches of territory north and west of Baghdad.
President Barack Obama has been hesitant to send much military aid to Iraq for fear of dragging the U.S. into another years-long Mideast war.
The White House has ruled out sending in combat troops, but this week sent 200 additional soldiers to Baghdad to help bolster the U.S. Embassy.
The latest announcement will bring to nearly 800 the number of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Also Wednesday, hundreds of Shi'ite volunteer fighters left the southern Iraqi city of Basra to take up arms and support the Iraqi army to prevent the advance of Sunni militants into the capital, Baghdad.
The call to take up arms was organized by the 'Jihad and Construction Movement', an affiliate of the Shi'ite body, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).
Weapons-bearing volunteer fighters in military uniforms waited in queues to receive blessings from a local cleric, before boarding several coaches that were bound for the capital.
Dagher al-Moussawi, the leader of the movement, said volunteers included former servicemen from the Iraqi army, as well as volunteers who had undergone military training.
He said volunteer fighters were being dispatched to battlefronts in coordination with the Iraqi forces.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.