Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  

Party quits tortuous Iraq govt talks
US slammed for interference

A small but influential Shia Islamist party said it was pulling out of talks on forming a new Iraqi government yesterday, complaining of US interference.

The withdrawal of the Fadhila party, part of the Alliance bloc, may help end a struggle over the key post of oil minister. The party had been pushing its own candidates against Hussain al-Shahristani, the choice of bigger Alliance groups.

The row over the oil ministry, in control of the world's third biggest reserves of crude and at the heart of efforts to revive Iraq's shattered economy, has been a major reason for delay in efforts to form a government in recent days.

"We will not return to the negotiating table and we have announced our final position. We withdraw from the formation of the government and we will stay in parliament to express the voice of the people," spokesman Sabah al-Saadi told reporters.

He criticised other parties for trying to force candidates for ministries on the Alliance's prime minister-designate, Nuri al-Maliki, as well as pressure from the United States.

Maliki has another 10 days under a one-month constitutional deadline to present his cabinet to parliament.

"The current negotiations are subject to external pressures from the American ambassador in Iraq," Saadi added.