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Iraq Cabinet to exclude Allawi's party

After nearly three months of negotiations, Iraq's major Shiite bloc has decided to form a Cabinet without members of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List party, lawmakers said Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraqi politicians on Monday again tried to end a deadlock over the formation of the country’s new transitional government as the death toll from two well-coordinated militant attacks against Iraqi police and civilians rose to 29.

On Sunday, lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he was ready to announce a Cabinet that would exclude his interim predecessor, Ayad Allawi.

Al-Jaafari had decided, some members of his political bloc said, to shun further attempts to include members of the party headed by Allawi, the secular Shiite politician who had served as prime minister as the country prepared for elections Jan. 30.

Members of Allawi’s Iraqi List, which controls 40 seats in the National Assembly, said his party had not been officially informed of the development. Allawi loyalists were bidding for at least four ministries, including a senior government post and a deputy premiership.

“I heard from the media, and some of the other assembly members told me about it,” lawmaker Hussein Shaalan told The Associated Press late Sunday. But he said the party would continue to support the government even if excluded from the Cabinet.

Al-Jaafari’s list could be submitted to parliament Monday, some officials said, but others indicated Tuesday was more likely. Many such forecasts have proven wrong so far.

Long resentment
Many Shiites have long resented the secular Allawi, accusing his outgoing administration of having included former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, which brutally repressed the majority Shiites and Kurds.

There had been intense pressure to end the political bickering after a recent uptick in insurgent violence that many in Iraq blamed on the continuing political turmoil nearly three months after Iraq’s historic parliamentary election on Jan. 30.

The New York Times reported Monday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, frustrated by the political deadlock, were pushing top Kurdish and Shiite politicians to come together and form a new government.

The moves, aimed at ending the stalemate over forming a new government, appeared to signal a change in the Bush administration’s hands-off approach to Iraqi politics, the newspaper reported.

The White House pressure was reported by Iraqi officials in Baghdad and an American official in Washington on Sunday, according to the Times.

Washington’s approach has so far emphasized that Iraqis need to form their own government without interference after successful Jan. 30 elections.

On Friday, Rice telephoned Iraq’s new president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to urge him to complete the government “as soon as they could” and “to get a status of where things were,” a senior State Department official in Washington told the Times.

American and Iraqi officials have increasingly blamed the delay for a rise in violence in recent weeks.

On Sunday, an emboldened Iraqi insurgency staged carefully coordinated dual bombings in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit and a Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of Iraqi police and civilians.