BAGHDAD — Iraqi political leaders have agreed to the framework for a new government that would end the countrys eight month-long political deadlock, a senior Iraqi official said late Wednesday.
The new government will look a lot like the old government, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Under the agreement hammered out Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will retain his post, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will remain president, and the position of speaker of the parliament will go to a Sunni.
Osama al-Nujaifi, a member of the Iraqiya bloc headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi was a leading candidate for the position.
Allawi, who has instead that he head the new government, was expected to decide Thursday whether to accept a position as head of a new strategic security council that would play a key role in decision-making.
The Iraqi parliament is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon after being called back by a court order. Under the constitution, the parliament must elect a speaker in its first session. The speakers position is a key part of a package being hammered out in talks between the political blocs on the elements of a coalition government.
Senior Iraqi officials have said the U.S., in calls from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, had been pressing Talabani to step aside as president and give that post to Allawi. A government without the participation of his Alawis Iraqiya bloc would risk alienating Sunni Iraqis and could increase sectarian tension.
As the meeting between political leaders adjourned Wednesday night, their convoys of armored four-wheel drive vehicles accompanied by security vehicles with flashing lights sped through Baghdads international zone. Iraqi Russian-made tanks rumbled by the blast walls.
Rocket attacks against the green zone have increased in recent weeks along with bombings of Shiites and Christians which many Iraqis blame partly on the political vacuum created by the lack of a new government eight months after national elections.
(McClatchy and the Monitor maintain a joint bureau in Baghdad)