Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki (file photo)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki (file photo)

The Iraqi parliament has been meeting amid intense behind the scenes negotiations to put the finishing touches on forming a new government.  

Iraqi politicians met behind closed doors to try to iron out last-minute glitches in order to present a new government to parliament.  Afterward Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had reportedly presented his Cabinet picks to Parliament Speaker Osama Nujeifi, but a vote to approve them was postponed until Tuesday.

The Iraqi parliament had been in session for most of the day to discuss regular business, as key leaders negotiated and jockeyed for position on the nomination list in the new government.

Al-Jazeera TV reported that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki would present his new government to Speaker Nujeifi, minus key security positions on which agreement must still be reached.

Lawmakers were kept waiting in vain for Mr. Maliki to address them, despite being told that he would present his government during the session.

Maliki ally and former interim president Ibrahim Jaffari told lawmakers the prime minister was on his way to parliament to present his government.  But the session was recessed and Mr. Maliki had not formally presented his government.

Member of parliament and Maliki ally Adnan Saraj insisted the prime minister had received approval from Speaker Nujeifi to keep several top ministerial positions himself, until a dispute over who would receive them was resolved.

Anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr was reported to be insisting that top security posts, including the defense and interior ministries be given to independent lawmakers.  Sadr spokeswoman Maha Douri stated that her party believes independents are best-suited for security positions.

On the sidelines, former prime minister Iyad Allawi told journalists that he expected a previously reached agreement would hold up, at which point his Iraqiya bloc will join the new government.

He says that if things move in a positive direction and there is good will, his bloc will necessarily join the government, assuming the recent power-sharing agreement has been respected on the basis of equality.

Analysts say that Mr. Allawi's Iraqiya bloc is expected to receive nine ministerial positions in the new government, including the Finance Ministry.  The Kurds are expected to receive seven positions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which they held in the outgoing government.

Prime Minister Maliki formally has until December 25 to present his government to parliament for approval.  Naming a new government would put an end to a nine-month political vacuum since the inconclusive parliamentary election last March.

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