Iraq’s parliament postponed until Tuesday a meeting aimed at agreeing on the formation of a new government because of a lack of consensus, parliamentary officials and a lawmaker said on Sunday.
Parliament was due to meet under heavy pressure to make progress on forming a new government to help face a sweeping jihadist-led militant offensive that has overrun swathes of the country.
The delay came as militants seized part of the town of Dhuluiyah Sunday in fighting that killed six people, an official said, as a new drive towards the capital entered its third day.
A lawmaker said that 25 Kurdish MPs were stranded in Erbil, the capital of their autonomous northern region, by one of the periodic dust storms that ground air traffic in Iraq.
“We are waiting for weather conditions to improve,” MP Arafat Karam told AFP.
A quorum can be reached without them, but their absence could further dim the chances of a breakthrough in Sunday’s session.
Deputies had gathered in parliament for talks intended to agree a prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, three months after Iraq’s parliamentary election.
Attendance is a perennial problem for the Iraqi legislature, with parliament not even able to reach quorum for an emergency session called at the height of the militant offensive last month.
And the previous session of parliament earlier this month ended in mayhem, with MPs trading barbs and so few returning after a break aimed at cooling tempers that the quorum was lost.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov has warned Iraqi politicians that “failure to move forward on electing a new speaker, a new president and a new government risks plunging the country into chaos.”
“It will only serve the interests of those who seek to divide the people of Iraq and destroy their chances for peace and prosperity,” he said.
The fighting in Dhuluiyah killed four policemen, district official Marwan Mitaab said.
The town, which the militants took in a lightning offensive last month before its recapture by government forces in one of their rare successes of the conflict.
The assault on the town, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, began early on Sunday and has since overrun more than half of it, including the police station and two local government buildings, Mitaab said.
A Dhuluiyah resident said that a large part of the town has been overrun, reversing gains made by police and residents, who expelled militants from the town last month.
After a period in which battle lines have been relatively stagnant, jihadist-led militants seem to be making a renewed push to gain ground, after overrunning a vast swathe of northern and north-central Iraq in their offensive that began in second city Mosul on June 9.
Security forces held off major attacks near Anbar provincial capital Ramadi and the strategic Euphrates valley town of Haditha on Friday and Saturday.
But militants were able to overrun two towns in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, on Saturday, despite a security force operation aimed at regaining territory in the province.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)