Iraqi PM Al Kadhimi meets US delegation in Baghdad

Iraqi prime minister discusses current political situation with US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf

Barbara Leaf with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi in Baghdad. Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister's Office
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi met US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf for talks on the country’s political crisis on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden had a phone call with Mr Al Kadhimi on the same day and commended his leadership during the worsening tension and violence in Iraq, the White House said.

It said the two leaders agreed to stay in touch in the coming weeks.

At least 30 people were killed and more than 400 wounded last week after supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr clashed with Iraqi troops inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The clashes came after 10 months of political deadlock in the country.

Mr Al Sadr's camp and that of the rival Shiite Co-ordination Framework bloc disagree over the appropriate way to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

His party won the 2021 federal election but was not able to reach the legislative quorum to form a government that excluded his pro-Iran rivals.

Iraqi protesters chant anti-government slogans and carry the Iraqi national flag during a protest near the Supreme Judicial Council building in central Baghdad, Iraq, on September 2. EPA

Earlier on Sunday evening, Ms Leaf and Iraq's Parliament Speaker Muhammad Al Halbousi discussed the importance of overcoming the crisis in the country, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

“During the meeting, regional and international developments were also discussed, as well as a number of issues of common interest,” the speaker's media office said.

“Ms Leaf confirmed her country's continued support for Iraq in accordance with the strategic framework agreement between the two countries and work to strengthen the partnership between Baghdad and Washington.”

The statement noted the importance of “strengthening the national dialogue between Iraqi leaders to overcome the crisis that the country is going through”.

Parliament staff back to work

On Sunday, Iraqi parliament staff returned to work for the first time since Mr Al Sadr's supporters stormed the legislature in late July, an assembly official said.

“All parliament staff have returned to work,” after orders issued on Saturday night, the parliament official told AFP.

“Operations in parliament had been suspended since protesters stormed the legislature's building.”

The protesters had staged a sit-in outside the assembly for weeks after initially storming it to demand fresh elections and the dissolution of parliament.

They pulled out last Tuesday at Mr Al Sadr's orders after about 24 hours of violence, which pitted them against the army and Iran-backed factions, left more than 30 Al Sadr supporters dead.

The battles that started when Al Sadr supporters stormed the government palace in the capital's fortified Green Zone marked one of the deadliest episodes of street violence in the country in about three years.

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In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, Mr Al Halbousi suggested an agenda for a second national dialogue session that follows a previous round held on August 17.

The dialogue sessions are part of a bid to end a political stalemate that has left Iraq without a new government, prime minister or president since elections last October.

The first session was boycotted by Mr Al Sadr's representatives.

Mr Al Halbousi did not set a time frame for the coming talks but said they should “set a date for early parliamentary elections” and discuss the election of a president and formation of a government.

Updated: September 05, 2022, 6:15 AM