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Sadr supporters back Allawi in Iraq

Iyad Allawi, former prime minister and head of the secular Iraqiya coalition, smiles during a media conference in Baghdad March 27, 2010. Secularist challenger Iyad Allawi's coalition won the most seats in Iraq's election, according to preliminary results on Friday, but the tight race foreshadowed long, divisive talks to form a new government. UPI Photos Ali Jasim
Iyad Allawi, former prime minister and head of the secular Iraqiya coalition, smiles during a media conference in Baghdad March 27, 2010. Secularist challenger Iyad Allawi's coalition won the most seats in Iraq's election, according to preliminary results on Friday, but the tight race foreshadowed long, divisive talks to form a new government. UPI Photos Ali Jasim | License Photo

BAGHDAD, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- An Iraqi political party loyal to Moqtada Sadr is supporting Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi as the next prime minister, a lawmaker announced Tuesday.

Iraq has been without a new government since March 7 elections for the 325-member Council of Representatives. The Iraqiya slate scored a two-seat victory over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition.

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None of the leading coalitions won the majority needed to form a government alone, however.

Ziyad al-Darb, a lawmaker from Iraqiya, told the Voices of Iraq news agency that Sadrist lawmakers were throwing their weight behind Allawi for prime minister.

Lawmakers loyal to Sadr took roughly 10 percent of the March 7 vote, positioning Sadr as an influential figure in the Iraqi political scene.

Darb told the Iraqi news agency that negotiations with Iraqiya "have reached advanced phases" and Sadrists have "expressed their approval to nominate Allawi for the prime minister post and to form a new government."

During July meetings with top Iraqi leaders in Damascus, Sadr said Iraqiya had the ambition needed to form a new government.

The announcement from the Iraqiya leader comes as the number of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq dipped to less than 50,000 for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, one week ahead of schedule.

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The U.S. mission in Iraq moves form a combat role to an advisory role under Operation New Dawn, which takes effect Aug. 31.

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