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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 22:34 GMT
Iraqi parliament delays opening
Ibrahim Jaafari arrives for work in Baghdad on Thursday
Critics dismiss Jaafari's record in office as interim premier
Iraq's parliament has postponed its first sitting by a week as parties continue to argue over who should take the country's top political posts.

Sunday's sitting was put back amid deadlock over the posts of prime minister, president and speaker.

The Shia alliance which won most seats in the December election does not want a sitting until agreement is reached.

But potential coalition partners reject its candidate for prime minister - the incumbent, Ibrahim Jaafari.

As the biggest bloc, United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) has the right to nominate the head of government.

Because it is 10 seats short of an overall majority it needs to find support among the other parties - the Kurds, the Sunnis and the secularists.

We will not change him [Jaafari] and will not hold any re-election to choose another
Jawad al-Maliki
Shia bloc

The BBC's Jim Muir says that putting off the meeting of parliament is constitutionally a questionable move.

It may give more time, our correspondent adds, but there is no guarantee at all that a week will be enough for the problem to be solved.

Standing by Jaafari

President Jalal Talabani originally called the meeting for Sunday to meet the constitutional deadline for the new parliament to convene following the general election in mid-December.

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

He agreed to postpone the sitting until 19 March at the request of a UIA envoy.

Jawad al-Maliki, a senior UIA official, said the bloc was determined to resist Sunni and Kurdish efforts to force it to drop Mr Jaafari.

"Jaafari is our candidate and he will stay," he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"We will not change him and will not hold any re-election to choose another."

He added that the Kurds and Sunnis needed UIA support to win the posts of president and speaker for their candidates.

Sunni and Kurdish parties oppose Mr Jaafari because they accuse him of failing to improve security or the economy in the year he has been in the post.




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