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Iraq’s Maliki, Allawi Meet in Bid to End Deadlock

The two frontrunners in Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary elections were meeting in Baghdad for talks on speeding up the formation of a new government.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived at the office of former premier Ayad Allawi at around 6:15 p.m. local time today, the state-sponsored al-Iraqiyah television reported.

A senior adviser to al-Maliki, Hassan al-Saneed, told the state-owned Sabah newspaper yesterday he expected the meeting would “lead to important results.” Parliament is likely to convene for a second time on July 17, al-Saneed said.

Both Allawi, who was backed by mainly Sunni Muslim voters, and al-Maliki, head of a Shiite Muslim alliance, claim the right to form the new government as leader of the largest bloc in the 325-seat parliament. Neither has secured the backing of enough lawmakers to be named prime minister.

The political uncertainty comes as the Obama administration prepares to cut U.S. troops in Iraq from about 86,000 to 50,000 by September, ahead of a full withdrawal next year.

Allawi’s Iraqiyah bloc earlier today denied reports on Iraqi websites that it had entered into an agreement that would give Allawi the presidency and al-Maliki the premiership, Dubai- based al-Sharqiyah television reported. Al-Saneed also denied that such a deal existed, al-Sharqiyah said.

Iraqiyah came first in the vote, winning 91 seats. Al-Maliki’s State of Law group was second with 89. After the poll, State of Law merged with its Shiite former rivals, the Iraqi National Alliance, giving them a combined total of 159 seats. A political group needs 163 seats to form a government.

Parliament convened for the first time June 14 in a session that lasted 15 minutes before it was adjourned for more talks on forming the cabinet.

Since the elections, Allawi and al-Maliki have met once.

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