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Iraqis React with Disappointment to Delay in Forming Iraqi Government
By Scott Bobb
VOA, Baghdad
30 March 2005

Iraqis are reacting with anger and disappointment to the latest delay in forming a new government, two months after the country's first democratic elections in decades. The second session of the national assembly ended in shouting and finger-pointing as members failed to agree on a candidate for speaker.

Iraqis from across the political spectrum reacted with deep disappointment to Tuesday's session of parliament, which failed to make progress on forming the new government despite weeks of negotiations.

Faisal al-Jadari, a 54-year-old bus driver, is angry. He says he and his family went out to vote and risked retaliation from the insurgents, but the officials they elected are not doing anything for the people. As a result, he says, he has less trust in them.

Hamaa Ahmed, a school teacher, is also disappointed. She says the delays are because the parliament members are focused on their ethnic and sectarian backgrounds and are not looking out for the interests of the people.

The session opened several hours late. Shi'ite and Kurdish blocks, which control three-fourths of the seats, waited for the Sunni group to decide on its candidate for speaker after Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer declined the job. The Sunnis, who won less than 20 seats in the 275-seat assembly after boycotting the polls, requested a postponement and the session ended an hour later.

A candidate for vice president, Interim Finance Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, said his Shi'ite group is prepared to accept any speaker nominated by the Sunnis.

"We will accept what our brothers would [recommend]. Its for them. Well have to wait for their decision," he said.

Another Sunni Arab who declined to run for speaker, Interim Industry Minister Hajem al-Hassani, said the Iraqi people are getting nervous over the delays.

"It cannot go on forever," he said. "At a certain point they have to stop and say we have to form a government or let this government continue. That would be another alternative."

Mr. Hajem, a candidate for defense minister in the new government, says the parliament, despite the leadership deadlock, could continue to work on procedural rules and monitor the government.

Under the transitional law, the parliament is to elect the speaker, then a president and two vice presidents who the have two weeks to name the prime minister.

Negotiators say the presidency should go to Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani and the premiership to Shi'ite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

But disagreements continue over the cabinet. A negotiator for the Shi'ites group, Ali al-Dabbagh, said his group is willing to cede the defense ministry to a Sunni and the foreign affairs ministry to a Kurd. But he said the Shi'ites want several other major cabinet posts.

"We cannot sacrifice the ministry of power electricity-oil and the ministry of health," he said. "This is part of our program. We want to uplift the condition of Iraqis."

The delays have led some leaders to fear an increase in the daily violence.

During the parliamentary session, two mortar rounds exploded in the fortified Green Zone that is the seat of government. No casualties were reported. And car bombs killed one person and wounded a dozen others in the northern city of Kirkuk and the southern city of Basra.