updated 10/31/2010 11:56:42 AM ET 2010-10-31T15:56:42

The Iraqi prime minister's Shiite-dominated coalition on Sunday rebuffed a Saudi initiative aimed at breaking Baghdad's political deadlock, saying it complicates efforts to form a new government.

A Sunni-backed political coalition led by Ayad Allawi narrowly edged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc in March 7 elections. But no single list won enough seats to control parliament or pick new leaders, touching off an eight-month scramble for allies that has brought Iraq's government to a virtual standstill.

On Saturday, Saudi King Abdullah invited Iraq's political leaders to Riyadh for talks aimed at resolving the political impasse. The Saudi monarch did not provide a specific date for the meeting, but suggested that it could take place after the hajj in November.

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But a senior official with al-Maliki's State of Law bloc, Hassan al-Suneid, brushed aside the Saudi offer, saying it "complicates the political situation in Iraq" and will further delay the formation of a new government because the talks would only take place in the second half of November.

Al-Suneid said Iraq's political blocs are "working to end the crisis within the next few days," and that "Iraqi politicians should be able to reach an agreement without external interference."

Since the March elections, Iraqi politicians — including al-Maliki — have shuttled to and from neighboring countries such as Iran, Syria, Turkey and Jordan in an attempt to win support for their re-election efforts.

Al-Suneid did not say outright whether al-Maliki would refuse to take part in the Riyadh meeting.

The response of al-Maliki's coalition to the Saudi initiative reflects the strained relations between the Shiite prime minister and the Sunni Arab power.

The Iraqi prime minister's ties with neighboring Iran, the region's Shiite force, make him unpalatable to many Sunni Arab states — including Saudi Arabia — that are trying to curb Tehran's influence in the region.

The Saudis have never invited al-Maliki to visit in his capacity as prime minister, which is a sore point for the Iraqi leader.

In contrast, many of Allawi's Sunni and Shiite supporters point to the ease with which Allawi, a secular Shiite, is accepted in such places as Saudi Arabia and Jordan as an indication that he'll be able to improve Iraq's ties in the Arab world.

Allawi's winning Iraqiya list, which drew much of its support from Iraq's Sunni minority, welcomed the Saudi initiative Saturday , saying it was aimed at preventing Iraq's security situation from deteriorating amid the prolonged political impasse.


Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report from Amman, Jordan.

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