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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 11:12 GMT
Iraq parliament to sit this week
President Jalal Talabani
Talabani said Sunday was the last date allowed to start the sitting
Iraq's parliament will sit for the first time on Sunday, starting the process for selecting new leaders, President Jalal Talabani has announced.

Parliament was elected in December but wrangling over the new government has delayed its initial meeting.

The sitting will set in motion a 60-day period in which the constitution requires members to select a new prime minister, president and cabinet.

The move came amid more violence on Monday, with six killed by car bombs.

Shrine attack

Mr Talabani said on Monday: "We will call today for holding the meeting on the 12th of this month because it is the last day that the constitution allows us to hold the meeting of the new parliament."

Baquba blast site
The move comes amid new car bombings - including at Baquba

The Iraqi election result was certified on 12 February and the constitution requires parliament to sit within a month of that date.

Political leaders are still sharply divided, particularly over who should be prime minister.

The choice of the majority Shia bloc to nominate Ibrahim al-Jaafari sparked opposition from Sunnis, Kurds and secular leaders.

Increased sectarian strife, triggered by a bomb attack on the important Shia shrine at Samarra on 22 February, has added to the crisis. More than 400 people have died in violence since the attack.

The main Shia alliance is 10 seats short of a majority in parliament and the sectarian divisions have hampered moves towards a government of national unity.

Leading Sunnis have accused Mr Jaafari of failing to tackle the violence since the Samarra attack.

United Iraqi Alliance 10 seats short of a majority
Kurdistan Alliance again likely coalition partner
Sunni Arabs gain much greater representation
Secular alliances win fewer seats
Former PM Iyad Allawi's bloc loses half its seats
Deputy PM Ahmed Chalabi's alliance wins no seats

Khalaf al-Olayan, head of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said Iraq had "gone from bad to worse" under Mr Jaafari.

The Kurds say Mr Jaafari opposes their control over oil-rich Kirkuk and have refused to cooperate.

Sources say it is likely that only the speaker's job will be agreed when parliament convenes.

Further violence on Monday underscored the difficulties facing the parties.

At least five people were killed and 17 injured in a car bomb explosion at a market in the town of Baquba, 60km (35 miles) north-east of Baghdad, police said.

The bomb went off close to a police patrol but reports said two young children died and many more children were injured.

BBC correspondents say another car bomb exploded at a market used mainly by Christians in the al-Doura area of southern Baghdad. One person was killed and five injured.

The US military also said one of its soldiers had been killed on Sunday in a rebel attack in western al-Anbar province.

Attacks continue despite the Iraqi government's imposition of curfews and appeals to religious leaders to call for calm in sermons.

Watch Jalal Talabani speaking at a news conference

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