Iraq measures disputed by opposition


IRAQ:Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki urged parliament on Saturday to cut its August holiday and adopt legislation deemed essential by Washington. But lawmakers complained that shortening the adjournment to less than a month would require amendment of the 2005 constitution. Parliament has already reduced this period by one month.

The US is particularly eager for the legislature to adopt the oil law which would ensure a fair distribution of revenues and amend the de-Baathification law which bars former Baathists from office.

However, these key measures are disputed by various blocs.

In its present form, the oil law does not have the support of a majority of members. Shia parliamentarian Abbas al-Bayati said negotiations over the law are too detailed to be concluded quickly.

Shias and Kurds oppose the return of ex-Baathists to their former jobs. Determined to have their say on the legislation, 44 members of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front and 32 members of the faction loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ended their boycott of parliament.

The 11-member Sunni National Dialogue Front continues to stay away.

Furthermore, the rump Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), reduced from 128 to 81 seats in the 275-seat assembly by defections, has failed to forge a fresh coalition with Kurds, Shia independents and the Iraqi Accord Front. This means the adoption of the legislation will be all the more difficult to achieve.

Mr Maliki has also been challenged by UIA deputies who have expressed alarm at the US military's new policy of arming Sunni Arab elements to fight al-Qaeda.

They say only state forces (staffed with Shia and Kurdish militiamen) should be armed.

Additionally, they argue that opposing al-Qaeda still does not mean Sunni guerrillas are prepared to accept the US presence or reach a working relationship with Mr Maliki or the Shia-Kurdish coalition which has dominated the Iraqi scene since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003.

If and when al-Qaeda is defeated, the main Sunni groups declare they intend to sweep away the post-war order in Iraq once the US has drawn down its troop levels in the country.

Indeed, Sunni resistance groups have formed an alliance and are in the process of drawing up a political programme.

Prospects for a reduction of violence are poor. Pentagon statistics show there are only 135 foreign detainees out of 19,000 Iraqis in custody, revealing that the overwhelming number of insurgents are Iraqi nationalists fighting for liberation.

The Pentagon also reports that there were 177 attacks on US and Iraqi forces per day during June, the highest ever monthly average.