Iraq parliament talks on security posts postponed


A session of Iraq's parliament in which new defence and interior ministers were expected to be chosen was postponed today, the deputy speaker said, in a clear setback to the prime minister.

Khaled al-Attiya did not give reasons for the postponement "until further notice" but government sources said the powerful Shia Alliance is deadlocked on a nominee for the Interior Ministry post.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has threatened that if there was no consensus he would exercise his constitutional right to put his own nominees to a vote in today's session.

Government sources said the political blocs had reached an agreement late last night to vote for Maliki's candidates, Farouk al-Araji for the interior post and General Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim, the commander of Iraqi ground forces, for defence minister.

But the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has threatened to reject Araji for the job and present its own candidates.

Such a move could split the bloc, to which Maliki belongs and throw the country into another political crisis after months of wrangling over a new government that Washinton hopes can avert a sectarian civil war.

Some members of the Shia Alliance said a deal could still be struck later in the day.