Split in Iraq's grand Shiite alliance

July 6, 2010 at 1:38 PM

BAGHDAD, July 6 (UPI) -- Talks between leading Shiite political blocs in Iraq are suspended until further notice because of disputes over candidates for prime minister, officials said.

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, said talks between the State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance were halted because INA insisted that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the head of State of Law, not seek another term in office.

The spokesman added the suspensions of talks had nothing to do with recent discussions between State of Law and the secular Iraqiya slate, Iraq's satellite channel al-Sumaria reports.

Former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi led Iraqiya to a narrow victory over State of Law in March 7 national elections. None of the leading parties secured the 163-seat majority to form a new government alone, however.

Top-ranking officials in State of Law told London's pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the Shiite slate was considering an "an agreement with the Iraqiya bloc in order to form a government."

The disputes follow a visit to Baghdad by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Biden during his talks pressed Iraqi leaders on the political stalemate but stressed Washington wasn't picking favorites.

"We don't have a slate of candidates, we don't have favorites," a senior official familiar with Biden's trip told reporters on background. "This is up to the Iraqis."

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