Sunday, April 03, 2005

Iraqis Tap Sunni for Parliament Speaker: Iraqis Tap Sunni for Parliament Speaker:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Lawmakers broke days of rancorous stalemate Sunday and reached out to Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority for their parliament speaker, cutting through ethnic and sectarian barriers that have held up selection of a new government for more than two months since the country's first free elections in 50 years.

Deputies still face, however, difficult choices for Cabinet posts and failed again to name a new president -- broadly expected to be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. That choice and those of two vice presidents were put off until a Wednesday session that could mark a major milestone as Iraq tries to build a democratic government and civil society.

Once the president and his deputies are selected, they have 14 days to choose a prime minister, the most powerful position in Iraq's envisioned government hierarchy. That job was widely believed reserved for Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of the Shiite Muslim majority.

Pressure is building on parliamentarians, with some growing frustrated with the slow pace of forming a government, because they have an Aug. 15 deadline to write a permanent constitution -- a task that cannot be undertaken until a government is in place.

Sunday's selection as speaker -- Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, one of only 17 Sunni Arabs in parliament -- could signal progress in the political tussle over selecting politicians for key Cabinet posts, a process that has been snarled by disagreement over how to reach out to the Sunnis. "

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