Iraq's Allawi, Cleric Al-Sadr Meet in Syria for Talks on Forming Cabinet

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi met with anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Damascus to discuss ways of ending a deadlock that has hampered the formation of a new government since Iraq’s elections four months ago. They described the talks as positive.

The session late yesterday is one of the “positive and successful meetings which will serve the Iraqi people and the unity of Iraq,” Allawi was cited as saying by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. There was “great consensus on a range of areas that were discussed,” he said.

Iraq’s leaders have been competing for allies to form a governing coalition following the March 7 vote, which failed to give any group a majority in the 325-seat assembly. Iraqi officials including National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie have warned that the political vacuum is encouraging militants.

At least four people were killed in a car bombing in Baquba today, the independent Aswat Iraqi news agency reported. That followed three bombings on July 18 that killed 44 people.

“There was agreement on the need to expedite the formation of the government and that this government incorporate all Iraqis and have a clear agenda,” Allawi said of his meeting with the Iraqi cleric. Al-Sadr traveled from Iran, where he attends a seminary, for the talks brokered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Allawi is among the Iraqi leaders who have visited to regional capitals, including Riyadh and Beirut, for meetings aimed at helping Iraq form a coalition.

His secular and Sunni Muslim-backed al-Iraqiyah coalition won the most seats in the elections, securing 91 to the 89 garnered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite Muslim-led State of Law group. Both blocs are vying for the right to name the next premier and form a cabinet.

‘Political Spectrum’

“We heard from his eminence his will and desire to unite efforts to bring to the Iraqi people stability and the formation of a comprehensive and inclusive government that includes all the political spectrum,” Allawi said, referring to al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr’s political party, the Sadr Trend, took about 40 seats in the vote and merged with State of Law, though it opposes al-Maliki remaining prime minister for four more years. The INA won 70 seats. It also merged with State of Law and opposes al-Maliki serving a second term.

Al-Sadr, whose militia battled U.S. and Iraqi forces two years ago, called the meeting with Allawi “positive and fruitful.” Al-Sadr said he found “there is a will to end this crisis and that the Iraqi people will have positive results soon,” according to SANA.

To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net; Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

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