Iraq parliament elects speaker as Tikrit push falters
Published on Jul 16, 2014 11:33 AM
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's sharply divided parliament has elected a speaker in a step forward in the delayed government formation process, while a renewed push by Iraqi forces to recapture Tikrit from militants ended in retreat.
World powers and Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had piled pressure on MPs to set aside their differences in the face of a jihadist-led offensive that has overrun swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad.
After two fruitless sessions earlier this month, MPs elected Salim al-Juburi as speaker, a post traditionally held by a Sunni Arab that must be filled before the process of forming a government can go ahead.
US officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Iraqi leaders and urged a rapid follow-up. Biden called Juburi and the pair "agreed on the importance of acting quickly, consistent with constitutional timelines, to form a new government capable of uniting Iraqi communities in the fight against" the jihadist militants, the White House said.
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