BAGHDAD: Iraqi leaders postponed forming a government for more than a month on Monday, as they delayed a crucial parliament session despite widespread calls to unite amid the country’s worst crisis in years.
The political bickering, coupled with the killing of an Iraqi army general, highlighted fears that prospects for progress against a jihadist-led advance were distant.
The swift advance, which has overrun swathes of territory across five provinces, has displaced hundreds of thousands, alarmed the international community and heaped pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a third term in office.
But the government formation process, which international leaders and Iraq’s top Shiite cleric have urged be expedited, was dealt a blow when a parliament session scheduled for Tuesday was postponed.
Washington insisted that uniting Iraq’s sectarian factions was the only way to repel the advances by Sunni jihadists.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Islamic State (IS) radicals posed an “existential threat.”
“To confront that threat, the country will need to be united,” he said.
Iraqi officials and a lawmaker, all speaking on condition of anonymity, said the parliament meeting was rescheduled for August 12 because members of parliament (MPs) could not agree on a new speaker.
More than two months after elections in which Maliki’s camp won the most seats, though not a majority, parliament has yet to progress on filling the top three positions, which are split between the Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities.
A parliament session last week ended in chaos, with MPs trading heckles and threats before some eventually walked out, forcing an adjournment.