Bafel Jalal Talabani meets Hikma movement leader in Baghdad

Bafel Jalal Talabani meets Ammar al-Hakim, head of Hikma Movement, in Baghdad, February 6, 2022.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Bafel Jalal Talabani met with head of Hikma Movement Ammar al-Hakim in Baghdad on Sunday, stressing on the constitutional steps to find a mechanism to reach agreement, as parties negotiate to form a new government. 

Talabani, who has been in Baghdad since Thursday, held a meeting with Hakim alongside Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region.

Both sides stressed on the constitutional steps to find a mechanism to reach a “national agreement” which is in the interest of people and country, a statement released by Talabani’s office said.

“There is still time for the parties to responsibly reach an agreement and make the interests of people overcome the parties’ interests, and that is the will and necessity of this phase,” Talabani was cited as saying.

Hakim, for this part, said Iraq “needs a loyal and honest official, who is patriotic and free for the country and protects sovereignty”, according to the statement.

The meeting comes as Iraqi parties including Kurds have begun negotiations to reach consensus and compromise to form the largest parliamentary bloc and a new government.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives, which re-elected Mohammed al-Halbousi as its speaker on January 9, has set February 7 as a date for voting to elect a new president, who will later appoint a prime minister.

Earlier, the Iraqi federal court ruled to suspend procedures for the nomination of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) candidate Hoshyar Zebari for the position of president, following a lawsuit accusing him of corruption.

The second Karkh investigating court said in a communique it sent to the federal court that it had conducted an investigation into a case filed against Zebari accusing him of wasting billions of dinars when he was the foreign minister between 2005 and 2014.

The court further said Zebari had disbursed “sums of money as rents to a number of guards of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in violation of the law, amounting to 3,771,020,844 dinars, despite the objection of the administrative authorities to the spending”.

Separately, dozens of Iraqis protested against Zebari in the past days due to the corruption allegations.

In 2016, Iraqi parliament sacked Zebari from his post as finance minister over alleged corruptions and misuse of public funds. Zebari denied the accusations.

Zebari, who also served as Iraq’s foreign minister for more than a decade, lost a no-confidence vote by 158 to 77.

Following the protests and the court’s investigation into Zebari’s case, the Sadrist movement, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said it would boycott a session called next week to elect the country’s president.

The 73-member bloc’s parliamentary chief, Hassan Adhari, said in a news conference that they would not attend Monday’s session in the 329-seat house, making a vote unlikely although technically a quorum could be reached.

“By order of the leader of the Sadrist Movement, it was also decided to freeze negotiations with the political blocs regarding the formation of the government,” Azari said in a press conference.

The announcement came one day after Sadr called on the lawmakers not to vote for candidates if they don’t meet presidential requirements.

“If the candidate of our ally Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] or any other candidate for the position of the Republic’s president doesn’t meet all the requirements, I call on the reform representatives not to vote from him,” Sadr said in a tweet.

“We are advocates of reform, not advocates of authority and rule,” he added.

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s presidency — a largely ceremonial role — is held by a Kurd, while the prime minister is Shia and the parliament speaker is Sunni.

Barham Salih, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) candidate, officially announced his candidacy for the second term of the presidency on Tuesday, saying he had proposed projects to eliminate corruption and to revive the country and its resources.

“The president of the Republic must be the president of all Iraqis,” Salih said in a televised speech. “I am committed to supporting national people and I won’t allow any pressure that disrespects the position of president.”

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