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NOURI MALIKI STARTS WORK ON FORMING IRAQ GOVERNMENT

By NBF News
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It is hoped the new administration will bridge the many political divisions in Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has formally asked Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to form a new government.

The move gives Mr Maliki 30 days in which to negotiate yet more potential hurdles as he hands out ministerial portfolios to all political factions.

He called on Iraqis to turn over a new page and forget their differences.

The announcement is part of a power-sharing agreement ending a world record eight months of political deadlock since March's inconclusive elections.

“I charge you … Nouri Maliki to form the new government, which we hope will be a real national partnership government which will not exclude any faction,” President Jalal Talabani said at a ceremony at the al-Salam presidential palace in Baghdad.

This is one more step along the tortuous road to a new government, says the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in the Iraqi capital.

After more than eight months of limbo, squabbling and back-room negotiations, a deal was finally struck two weeks ago to allow Mr Maliki to remain in his post.

He is now tasked with putting together a government in 30 days.

Allawi fear
Accepting the nomination, Mr Maliki said he was aware the responsibility was “not an easy task”.

Iraq government deadlock
March: Elections give two-seat lead to former PM Iyad Allawi – not enough to form a government

June: Parliament meets for 20 minutes, MPs sworn in but delay formal return to work to give time for coalition talks

August: Iraq's Supreme Court orders parliament to re-convene

November: power-sharing deal agreed. Shia bloc to get premiership, Sunnis to get speaker plus new role for Mr Allawi. Kurds keep presidency.

Iraq's great balancing act
Profile: Nouri al-Maliki
“I am addressing the great Iraqi people, all its religions, sects and nationalities, and our brothers the politicians, about the necessity to work to overcome the disputes from the past, to put them behind us and to open a new page,” he said.

The new government is expected to include all the major factions, including the Kurds, Shia and Sunni Arabs.

It should also include Iyad Allawi's Sunni-backed al-Iraqiyya bloc, which won two more seats in parliament than Mr Maliki's largely State of Law coalition, but lost out after the prime minister formed the National Alliance with supporters of the radical Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr.

But there are fears that the former prime minister could withdraw from the process if he feels he is being sidelined.

Such a move would be a setback for reconciliation, just one year before the US is scheduled to withdraw the last of its troops from Iraq, our correspondent says.

The road ahead is littered with potential pitfalls, and dividing up ministries among Iraq's notoriously fractious parties and factions will not be easy, he adds.