Iraq’s new parliament has met for the first time in Baghdad more than six weeks after it was elected. But the country remains without a government as bitter divisions continue to block a coalition deal. The meeting took place amid tight security – nearby streets were sealed off. Several blasts were heard in the Green Zone, which is frequently the target of guerrilla attacks.
Current Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will remain caretaker leader until a deal is reached. Negotiators hope an agreement will be struck by the end of the month. Two main sticking points remain between the Shi’ite Islamist alliance that won a majority of seats in parliament and the Kurdish coalition which came second.
Both sides are disputing control of the city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish-dominated town in the north, which lies in one of Iraq’s main oil-producing areas. The Kurds are also concerned about the fate of the Kurdish militias, which the Shi’ites want to be part of Iraq’s official security forces.
One of the roles of the assembly will be to draft a constitution. A general election to chose a permanent parliament is scheduled for December.