Vol. 5 Num 630 Tue. March 07, 2006  

Iraqi parliament finally to meet on Mar 12
13 people killed in attacks

President Jalal Talabani yesterday announced Iraq's first permanent post-Saddam Hussein parliament would convene on March 12, ending three months of waiting after general elections.

The announcement came as rebels killed at least 13 people across the strife-torn country and Kurds and Sunnis kept up the pressure on Shia Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari not to stand in the next government.

"I'll be summoning today the leaders of parliamentary factions to inform them of the inaugural meeting of parliament to be held on March 12," Talabani said after meeting the new premier of the northern Kurdish region Nichirvan Barzani.

The opening of parliament has been delayed by bickering over the formation of the government with Kurdish and Sunni parties demanding that the leading Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) ditch outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and nominate another candidate to form the coalition cabinet.

"We want all parliamentary groups to back the next prime minister because we need a government of national unity," said Talabani, a Kurd.

He made fun of newspapers, which described Jaafari being the chosen candidate of "the man in the street".

"But which street?" he asked. "The streets of Sulaimaniyah (Kurds), of Amara (Shia), Kirkuk (mixed) or Ramadi (Sunni) because there are many streets in Iraq."

"My position is clear -- I repeat there must be consensus agreement on the names of the head of state, prime minister and parliamentary speaker."