• November 22, 2010
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Iraq's parliament speaker says the oil-rich nation has run out of money to pay for widows' benefits, farm crops and other programs for the poor.

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi told lawmakers Sunday that parliament would push the Iraqi government for answers on where the money has gone.

Irritated lawmakers demanded answers. Parliament members have each collected more than $100,000 so far this year in salaries and stipends, though they have only met four times since March amid the deadlock over forming a new government.

A Finance Ministry official said the estimated $1 billion social care budget has been emptied for 2010. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's lawmakers headed back to parliament Sunday for what was expected to be a lackluster session that won't address the key decisions on who will run the new government.

Instead, Iraq's 325 lawmakers were expected only to discuss internal parliamentary bylaws and forming legislative committees during the session that began in the early afternoon.It is only the fourth meeting of parliament since lawmakers were elected in March.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said it likely will be several more days before President Jalal Talabani formally asks Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to begin forming the new government and picking cabinet ministers.

A power-sharing agreement designed by Iraq's Kurdish leaders has assured that al-Maliki, a Shiite, will remain prime minister even though his State of Law political bloc did not win the most votes in the March 7 parliamentary vote.

A Sunni-backed but secular alliance known as Iraqiya won the most seats in the election, and its leader, Shiite former prime minister Ayad Allawi, worked bitterly against al-Maliki all summer to prevent him from forming a government.

Allawi was never able to gain enough support to put himself in the prime minister's office, however, and Iraqiya signed off on the power-sharing agreement.The agreement returns both al-Maliki and Talabani to power and gives Iraqiya the parliament speaker's post, which went to Sunni lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi.

Allawi was meant to head a council that is intended to serve as a counterweight to al-Maliki, but he has said that he will not take a post in the new government, calling into question role of the council.Al-Dabbagh said Iraqiya has a "very important" role in the new government but did not know what Allawi intended to do.

"There are no positive signals from him," al-Dabbagh said.After Talabani officially asks al-Maliki to form the government, the prime minister has 30 days to assemble his cabinet -- a painstaking process in Iraq's complicated political map.

Lawmaker Bassem Sharif, a member of the Shiite Fadhila party that is allied with al-Maliki, said the blocs were still trying to decide how many minister's jobs are available -- and how to divvy them up among competing factions. The so-called sovereignty posts such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Oil are considered the most prestigious and powerful.

The Associated Press



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