Iraqi parliament elects new speaker, breaking political deadlock

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Iraq's parliament elected Sunni lawmaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi as speaker on Saturday, marking the first step towards establishing the new government four months after an inconclusive national election.

Parliament was due to elect a speaker and two deputies during its first meeting on Sept 3, but failed to do so as lawmakers were still trying to determine which competing bloc had the most seats.

Some delegates from Iraq's Sairoon Alliance, led by Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party had withdrawn from the session, according to an Al Arabiya News Channel correspondent.

Halbousi, 37, was elected Governor of Anbar in August 2017 by the provincial council, a position he relinquished when he was sworn in as an Iraqi MP on September 3.

The key parliamentary meeting could allow Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s political rivals to form a government without him.

On Thursday, Abadi announced a new series of public works initiatives for the southern city of Basra, hit by a wave of deadly protests last week.

Abadi made the statement following a cabinet meeting, delayed by two days as he visited Basra where violent demonstrations last week saw 12 protesters killed and government buildings torched.

Basra has been at the epicenter of protests that broke out in July in the southern province before spreading to other parts of the country, as demonstrators railed against poor services and condemned corruption among Iraqi officials.

Anger in Basra flared early last week over a growing health crisis, after more than 30,000 people were hospitalized by pollution in the city’s water supply.

On Thursday, Abadi said a team of advisers would “assure the immediate implementation” of new water pumping, routing and filtration projects -- but did not provide a budget or a timetable.

(With AFP)

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