Members of the Iraqi parliament have voted on a new government, a key moment for the country as it tries to mount a counter-offensive against the Islamic State group, according to Iraq stateTV.
Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abbadi is trying to cobble together a cabinet, which is scheduled to be approved by parliament later on Monday.
But his efforts are hampered by last minute wrangling over who should get what post, and the Kurdish bloc’s reluctance to join the national government.
The make-up of the cabinet has still not been revealed, but Abbadi is expected to include representatives of all the country’s religious and ethnic components in a bid to save Iraq from collapse.
Abbadi has until September 10 to submit his government for approval, or Iraq’s president must select another candidate for prime minister.
The political bargaining comes as violence continues across the country, and as the US government launches more air strikes to help government forces in their fight against the Islamic State group.
Earlier on Monday, two suicide bombers attacked a town north of Baghdad that has resisted the rebels, killing 18 people on Monday, police and a doctor said.
A first suicide bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives to breach a barrier in a southern neighbourhood of Dhuluiyah, which the second bomber then penetrated, the sources said.
Security forces and allied tribesmen then clashed with an armed group in the Jubur neighbourhood.
Dhuluiyah was previously overrun by rebels but local tribes drove them out, and Jubur has put up fierce resistance to renewed attempts to take their town.
More than 50 people were wounded in Monday’s violence, the sources said.
There was no immediate claim for the attack, but suicide bombings are almost exclusively carried out by Sunni armed groups, including the Islamic State group.
Kurdish bloc vote
Meanwhile, the country’s Kurdish political bloc is holding a final meeting on Monday to decide whether to participate in the next national government, the Kurds’ top negotiator Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters.
“We are going back today to Suleimaniya to have a decisive meeting with the Kurdish leaders on the status of the talks and the Kurds’ share of the government,” Zebari said. “The decision will be the Kurds’ final decision either way.”
Zebari, who is also Iraq’s outgoing foreign minister, said the Kurds want to participate in the national government, but until now the National Alliance – the coalition of Iraq’s Shia political majority – has failed to make substantive concessions.
The main sticking point is the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) budget. This year, Baghdad stopped paying for the KRG’s civil servants’ salaries in protest against the Kurds’ exporting oil to Turkey independently.
“We want to show the prime minister-designate good will. We want for him to succeed but really in every negotiation there has to be a fair deal. Still we aren’t there.”
The Kurdish political bloc meeting will take place on Monday afternoon, Zebari said, adding the delegation will return to Baghdad later the same day. Al Jazeera