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Ayad Allawi, whose Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc came out slightly ahead in Iraq’s elections, discussed prospects for forming the country’s next government with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday.
The meeting, which took place in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, tackled “the latest developments in the Iraqi scene, including ongoing efforts to form the new Iraqi government,” the official MENA news agency reported.
Allawi, according to the report, expressed his gratitude for “Egypt’s role in backing plans for restructuring Iraq.”
Arab diplomatic sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Allawi’s visit--the second this year--comes as the former Iraqi premier is seeking support from main regional powers to form the next government.
On Tuesday, Allawi asserted in Turkey’s Ankara that his bloc “would not let a small group of judges hold the political process hostage,” referring to a ruling by an Iraqi election court that disqualified 52 candidates, including one al-Iraqiya winner, on charges of being affiliated with ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
On Wednesday, Allawi called for the creation of an internationally-monitored interim government.
Allawi said that Iraq's parliament should be reconvened to supervise the Shia-led authorities until results of the 7 March election were ratified and to prevent the "theft" of the election and a spike in violence.
"We will not stay silent in the face of what is happening in the Iraqi political arena with attempts to marginalize and exclude the Iraqiya list," Allawi told the Sunni Sharqiya television station from Egypt.
Iraqis had hoped last month's parliamentary election would lay the ground for sustained peace and economic prosperity seven years after the US-led invasion unleashed sectarian bloodshed and a fierce Sunni Islamist-led insurgency. Overall violence has fallen sharply since its peak in 2006 and 2007.
But the ballot produced no outright winner, spawning a protracted period of political uncertainty as Shia-led, Sunni-backed and Kurdish factions jostle for position in high-stakes coalition negotiations.
Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition won two seats fewer than Allawi's Iraqiya in the next 325-seat parliament, and successfully sought a vote recount in Baghdad that could overturn Iraqiya's lead.
That was the first of at least two expected rulings that could potentially cost Iraqiya some seats and enrage minority Sunnis who backed it and regard its success as a vindication of their claim to a greater say in the post-Saddam government.
Sunni outrage over their loss of power after the fall of Saddam Hussein helped fuel the violence and could trigger a resurgence in sectarian bloodshed. A serious security collapse could threaten US plans to end combat operations in August ahead of a full withdrawal scheduled for the end of 2011.
Iraqiya said in a statement that it had examined its options for defending its electoral lead and concluded that the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League should establish a caretaker Iraqi government and hold new elections.
It said it would also ask Iraq's presidency council to reconvene parliament to monitor the executive branch and prevent any violations of the constitutional order.
Allawi's election partner, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, summoned a meeting of the presidency council, of which he is a member.
Al-Maliki's incumbent government is currently serving in a caretaker role that substantially limits its powers. It can carry out normal government duties, such as paying public-sector salaries, but cannot pass new laws or sign new contracts.
It took Iraq five months to form a government after the last national elections in 2005. That lengthy political vacuum allowed sectarian violence to take hold.
US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill this week said current conditions were far removed from those of 2005. But he voiced concerns about how long it was taking to certify election results and urged Iraqi politicians to "get this show on the road."
Prior to the March elections, Shia politicians slammed Allawi’s visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both Sunni regional powers that had previously expressed concern about growing Iranian influence in Iraq.
Ever since the 2003 US invasion, rumors and accusations have swirled in Iraq about Iranian influence in Iraqi politics, Syria's harboring of Saddam Hussein loyalists, and Saudi financing of Islamist insurgent groups.
Although Allawi is a Shia by birth, his grass-roots base comes largely from Sunni-dominated areas, which hail his objections to the "de-Baathification" policy adopted by the Shia-led government following the American invasion seven years ago.