BAGHDAD — Iraq averted a new political crisis Saturday when the head of the main Sunni-backed bloc ended a walkout and returned to parliament, paving the way for the formation of a new government.
Ayad Allawi, the head of the secular Iraqiya bloc, had walked out of the first session Thursday along with dozens of party members to protest what they said was the breach of an agreement to lift a ban on three of their members accused of ties to former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
"Iraqiya will take an active role in a government that will work towards real national participation within the agreements that we reached with the other political blocs," Haider al Mullah, a spokesman for Iraqiya, told reporters at parliament.
Mullah said the walkout on Thursday was due to a "misunderstanding."
The two-hour session Saturday ended with agreements aimed at modifying the authorities of the prime minister and cabinet to add a balancing role for a new national security council that Allawi would head. The council is meant as a check on Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's powers.
Maliki now has until late December to choose a cabinet — a process expected to be almost as difficult as agreeing on the prime minister's post. The cabinet ministers will be drawn from all of the major political blocs that supported him.
Allawi and his supporters argue that they should have head the government, since the bloc won two more seats than Maliki's alliance.
The failure to agree on who would head a government led to an eight-month deadlock after Iraqis went to the polls in early March.
Allawi's walkout threatened to jettison the carefully-formed coalition that has returned Maliki to power after securing the support of main Shiite blocs, including the party of cleric Muqtada al Sadr, and the Kurds.
Iraqiya agreed in talks over the last week with Maliki and Kurdish leaders to join the coalition government if a series of conditions are met. They include a pledge to overhaul the commission that had banned three prominent Sunni members of parliament from taking their seats.
(Issa is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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