Baghdad: Iraq`s President formally asked Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday to form a new government, giving him 30 days to choose a cabinet from among Iraq`s fractious Shi`ite, Kurdish and Sunni political factions.
The official request from President Jalal Talabani came two weeks after political leaders reached an agreement to divide up the top government jobs, a deal that put Maliki, a Shi`ite, on track for a second term as premier.
The power-sharing pact, more than eight months after an inconclusive March 07 Parliamentary Election, offered some hope that Iraq could avoid a return to the sectarian warfare that killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-07.
The deal gave Talabani, a Kurd, another term as President and installed Sunni lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi as Speaker of Parliament.
Under Iraq`s Constitution, Talabani was allowed 15 days to appoint a prime minister following his re-election by MPs on November 11.
He had earlier been expected to name Maliki as premier last Sunday, immediately after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, but delayed the decision to give the incumbent more time to negotiate ministerial posts.
The re-selection of Talabani, a Kurd, and Maliki, a Shi’ite, to their posts and the naming of a Sunni Arab as speaker of Parliament came after a power-sharing pact was agreed on November 10.
The accord also established a new statutory body to oversee security as a sop to ex-premier Iyad Allawi, who had held out for months to regain the top job after his Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in the March 07 poll.
The support of Iraqiya, which garnered most of its seats in Sunni areas of the predominantly Shi’ite country, is widely seen as vital to preventing a resurgence of inter-confessional violence.
The Sunni minority which dominated Saddam Hussein`s regime was the bedrock of the anti-US insurgency after the 2003 invasion.
Despite being lauded by international leaders including US President Barack Obama, the power-sharing pact has looked fragile ever since.
A day after it was agreed, about 60 Iraqiya MPs walked out of a session of Parliament, protesting that it was not being honoured.
The bloc`s MPs had wanted three of its senior members, barred before the election for their alleged ties to Saddam`s banned Baath party, to be reinstated immediately.
Two days later, however, Iraq`s lawmakers appeared to have salvaged the deal after leaders from the country`s three main parties met and agreed to reconcile and address the MPs` grievances.