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Iraqi crisis talks go ahead without Muqtada al-Sadr

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Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met party and other leaders on Wednesday to discuss the country’s political deadlock, but key player Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shia cleric, did not attend.

Ten months after a general election, war-scarred Iraq still has no government, new prime minister or new president, because of disagreement over forming a coalition.

Tensions have been rising since July between the two main Shia factions, one led by al-Sadr, the other by the pro-Iran Coordination Framework.

Attempts to mediate have so far proved fruitless.

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Al-Sadr wants parliament dissolved to pave the way for new elections, but the Coordination Framework wants to set conditions and demands a transitional government before new polls.

A statement from al-Kadhimi’s office said he had called a meeting on Wednesday “to start a serious dialogue; intending to find solutions to the current political crisis.”

The Coordination Framework was represented by two former premiers, Nuri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi.

Also present were Hadi al-Ameri and Faleh al-Fayyad, senior officials in the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Hashed al-Shaabi network, now part of the national forces.

Al-Maliki is a longtime foe of al-Sadr, the influential cleric whose bloc emerged from last October’s elections as parliament’s biggest, but still far short of a majority.

Al-Sadr supporters have been staging a sit-in outside parliament in Baghdad’s high security Green Zone for more than two weeks, and the Coordination Framework began a rival Baghdad protest on Friday.

President Barham Saleh and parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbussi also attended Wednesday’s talks, as did officials of the two main Kurdish parties and the UN envoy in Iraq.

A terse press release from the al-Sadr faction said it was not taking part “in the national dialogue.”

Announcing the talks in a statement on Tuesday, al-Kadhimi’s office had said they aimed “to start a profound national dialogue and deliberation; to find solutions to the current political crisis.”

Earlier Tuesday, al-Sadr had backtracked after previously urging his supporters to join a massive rally as the standoff appeared to be getting worse.

He said a “million-man demonstration” planned for Baghdad on Saturday was being postponed indefinitely.

Read more:

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