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Iraq Shi'ite union picks incumbent Maliki for PM, YAHOO NEWS


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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An alliance of Iraq's Shi'ite political blocs picked incumbent Nuri al-Maliki on Friday as its nominee for prime minister, alliance officials said, ending months of wrangling that had stalled formation of a government.

The decision by the National Alliance, a merger of Maliki's Shi'ite-led State of Law coalition and the Tehran-friendly Iraqi National Alliance (INA), marked a breakthrough in talks among Iraq's political factions for a new government after a March 7 parliamentary election that produced no clear winner.

"We have nominated Maliki as the candidate of the National Alliance," Ali al-Adeeb, a senior member of Maliki's Dawa party said.

At least two other sources in a meeting of the National Alliance blocs confirmed the nomination, but a formal announcement had not yet been made.

Sources said the nomination was agreed by State of Law, which has 89 seats in parliament, and the Sadrist political movement of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the two key members of the National Alliance, as well as smaller factions.

But it was not immediately clear if the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), another key member of the INA had signed up to the nomination.

SADRISTS CRITICAL

Winning support from the Sadrists, who have around 39 seats, was critical to Maliki's nomination. Sadrists had been opposed to a second term for the premier, who sent government troops to crush Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in 2008.

While Maliki's nomination by the Shi'ite alliance was a breakthrough, he may yet face formidable opposition before a new government is formed.

The Shi'ite union by itself was a handful of seats short of the 163 needed for a governing majority in parliament, meaning a deal with other blocs was still needed.

The cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, which won 91 seats in the March 7 election, two more than Maliki's State of Law, declared last week it would not participate in a Maliki government.

Leading politicians have said the next government must include all of Iraq's fractious political factions, including Iraqiya, which was heavily supported by minority Sunnis.

Allawi has warned that any attempt to exclude Iraqiya from the government could result in a return to sectarian violence.

(Additional reporting by Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Rania El Gamal and Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Jim Loney)

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