Iraq election rivals meet in political ice breaker

The leaders of rival pol alliances battling to run Iraq took a step toward ending dispute.

Updated: Jun 13, 2010, 17:16 PM IST

Baghdad: The leaders of two rival
political alliances battling to run Iraq`s new government took
a step toward ending their power dispute, as the Sunni-backed
coalition that won March elections now faces being sidelined
in Parliament.

The 90-minute meeting between Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki and former Premier Ayad Allawi was their first since
the March 7 vote, and was described by aides as more of an
icebreaker than the start of serious negotiations.

The secular but Sunni-dominated Iraqiya coalition
that Allawi heads risks losing a grasp on its narrow electoral
triumph due to infighting and outmaneuvering by al-Maliki and
his fellow Shiite rivals.

As the new legislature convenes tomorrow, that
prospect is serving as a lesson in Iraq`s nascent democracy,
where rules can bend. It also, more ominously, raises the
possibility of a revitalised insurgency if Sunnis conclude
that they have no place in government as US troops pull out of

"That`s why it`s important to have a unity
government," Army Gen Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq,
told a Pentagon news conference last week. "We don`t want to
see any group that feels it`s been disenfranchised and even
contemplates moving back to an insurgency".

Iraqiya alliance is struggling to capture key
government posts -- a task that should have been all but
certain after it took more than a quarter of parliament`s 325
seats in the vote.

Iraqiya won 91 seats, two more than its closest
rival. But Allawi, a secular Shiite, has little if any chance
to reclaim the Prime Minister`s job he held in 2004-05, and
risks top Cabinet positions for Sunni allies if he insists on
it, according to Iraqi officials close to ongoing

Iraqiya "might have no post-election role," Hassan
al-Alawi, a senior Iraqiya leader, said in an interview. "They are walking a dangerous route."

He added: "Allawi will never be the PM."

Iraqiya`s victory was initially heralded as a
groundbreaking step toward a secular Iraqi government after
years of Sunni-Shiite tensions that brought the country to the
brink of civil war in 2005-07. For many in the West, it was a
soothing outcome in the face of a US military drawdown that
will send home about 45,000 American troops this summer and
leave security in the largely untested hands of Iraqi army and
police forces.