Iraqi leaders expected to form government
Iraqi leaders are expected to announce a national unity government at the end of a conference of major political parties, heralding the end of an eight month period of stalemate since the general election in March.
An upsurge in sectarian violence and growing anger over the payment of the world's best parliamentary salaries to MPs that had met just once since the vote has put party leaders under increasing pressure to seal a power sharing deal.
A spokesman for Nouri al-Maliki, the serving prime minister, claimed an agreement had been struck for him to remain in office.
Iraqiya, his main opponents who won most seats in the March election, denied that names had been agreed for individual posts.
But Maysoun al-Damalouji, its principal spokeswoman, said that negotiations were under way to share power.
Ayad Allawi, Iraqiya's leader, had previously said he would not serve under Mr Maliki. But he has been unable to win acceptance for any other candidate, while Mr Maliki's Shia Muslim State of Law party, with Iranian support, was gradually building up a coalition that could have excluded him from power altogether.
Washington was also keen to see a deal, fearing Iranian domination of any government without Iraqiya.
Iraq's eight months without a government broke a unenviable world record.
Both Iraq's neighbours and the United States, which plans to withdraw its last troops next year, feared a further breakdown of order.
Iraqiya won the overwhelming support of the Sunni minority in the election, and it was feared that if it were shut out of the government militant groups including al-Qaeda would use the threat of Shia domination as a recruiting tool.
By contrast, State of Law won the backing of the militant Shia party, the Sadists, whose leader is currently living in Iran.
Ali al-Dabbagh, Mr Maliki's spokesman, said Mr Allawi had been asked to name the speaker of parliament. "There is a draft agreement with the Iraqiya party, but there are still some problems to resolve," he said. "Iraqiya has not agreed for the moment over which side will have the parliament speaker's position and which side will have the presidency,"
He said under the outline deal Mr Maliki would remain prime minister, while Jalal Talabani, from the Kurdish block which holds the balance of power, would continue in his post as president, a symbolic but less important role.
Miss al-Damalouji insisted no deal had been agreed on names or parties for particular posts in meetings between the parties.
"The truth is that they did not name names for these positions," she said.
"All the discussions have been about devolution of power and power-sharing."
However, she said Iraqiya would be attending a conference of the parties in the Kurdish autonomous region city of Erbil on Monday, at which a deal is expected to be announced. Parliament would then reopen on Thursday.
"Hopefully the deal will reflect the size of each particular block," she said.
Jamal al-Butikh, an Iraqiya MP, said the group had agreed to the power-sharing deal after it was assured that "no political decision would be made without its agreement."
Iraq's deputy prime minister, Roz Nouri Shawes, who is head of the Kurdish negotiating team, also suggested the long-drawn out battle for a government might be drawing to a close.
He said: "The work of the committees has ended and the forthcoming meeting will be held on Monday to discuss the three leading state positions – presidency, prime minister and parliamentary speaker."