Allawi to have 'broad powers' in government


IYAD ALLAWI, Iraq’s leading secular politician, has agreed to join a government dominated by Shia religious parties, ending nine months of political wrangling.

Following a meeting late on Tuesday with his rival prime minister designate Nuri al-Maliki, Mr Allawi said, “We reached a joint vision. Each of us has experience that complements the other.”

Mr Maliki said, “There are great challenges and we have the ability to confront all these challenges.”

Mr Allawi’s spokeswoman Maysoun Damlouji said he expected to wield broad powers as head of the National Council for Strategic Policies, a 20-member body comprised of senior politicians designed to scrutinise and approve the prime minister’s key security and foreign policy decisions.

Iraq’s 325-member national assembly is scheduled to meet on Saturday to debate the powers of the new body. Mr Allawi argues that 80 per cent of council members must endorse policies before they are adopted.

Mr Allawi had previously rejected any deal with Mr Maliki, insisting he should form the government because his Iraqiya group won the largest number of seats in the March 7th election. However, Mr Maliki, whose State of Law bloc came second, refused to accept Mr Allawi’s primacy and, with Iran’s assistance, was able to secure the necessary majority by enlisting the support of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Kurdish bloc.

Nevertheless, the US insisted that the new government should include Iraqiya which represents secularists and Sunnis rather than be a clone of the outgoing government composed of Shia religious and ethnic Kurdish parties. The deal was reached partly as a result of lobbying by US vice-president Joe Biden and other senior officials keen to ensure stability for the coming year when US troops are set to withdraw from Iraq. Mr Allawi had threatened to go into opposition, risking renewed Sunni resistance to a Shia-led regime closely connected to Tehran.

Mr Maliki was given inducements by the US to accept the deal. The UN Security Council is expected to lift the ban on Iraqi acquisition of peaceful nuclear technology, return control of Iraq’s oil and gas revenue to the government and end the oil-for-food programme.

Mr Maliki is set to announce his new government on December 23rd, two days ahead of deadline.