Iraqi parliament adjourns in blow to Bush

1200.jpgIraq’s parliament went into summer recess for a month on Monday after political leaders failed to agree on a series of laws that Washington sees as crucial to stabilising the country.Lawmakers said the government had yet to present them with any of the laws. The parliament had earlier signalled its intention to go into recess in August after cutting short its summer break that normally starts in July.

“We do not have anything to discuss in the parliament, no laws or constitutional amendments, nothing from the government. Differences between the political factions have delayed the laws,” Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told Reuters.

The parliament is due to reconvene on September 4, just two weeks before the top US general in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Washington’s envoy to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, are due to report to Congress on the success of US President George W. Bush’s new Iraq strategy and make recommendations.

The recess leaves Bush with little to show Americans after sending nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq to give Iraqi leaders breathing space to reach a political accommodation.

“Bush cannot realistically go to Congress and say he has to keep US troops there because the Iraqi government is doing a good job —  because the government is largely absent. It places him in a very difficult predicament,” said Gareth Stansfield, an analyst at leading British think tank Chatham House.

Petraeus said commanders felt they would need a substantial force in Iraq at least until mid-2009.

“Sustainable security is, in fact, what we hope to achieve.

“We do think it will take about that amount of time … to establish the conditions for it,” he told ABC News.

Washington has pressed the Iraqi government to speed up passage of laws that include measures to distribute Iraq’s oil reserves and ease restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party serving in the civil service.

It views such laws as key to reconciling disaffected members of Iraq’s Sunni Arab community, once politically dominant under Saddam and now locked in a vicious sectarian conflict with majority Shiites that has killed tens of thousands.

A US embassy spokesman said that during parliament’s recess it was important Iraq’s leaders “remained actively engaged on key legislation and trying to reach agreement on the sticking points”.

 “In the absence of political agreement there was not much the parliament could have done. We will wait for the summit, which is expected to be next week,” said a senior Iraqi government official, referring to a planned crisis meeting of the country’s top Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish leaders.

“We have a serious crisis but there are serious efforts to resolve it,” the official said, adding that the constitution allowed for parliament to be recalled from its summer break.

Cabinet approved the oil law, twice, but it has gone no further. It has been mired in disputes over how much authority regions and central government should have over oil reserves.

Easing the ban on Baathists faces stiff opposition from Shiite political parties, who fear a resurgence of Baathists who ruled the country for 35 years. Sunni Arabs say they are the main victims of the ban and are being targeted unfairly.

Bush is under mounting pressure from Democrats in Congress and rebels within his own Republican Party to begin pulling out US troops soon. The April-June quarter was the costliest in American lives since the start of war in 2003, with 331 killed.

The US military reported the deaths of three more soldiers on Monday, taking the death toll since the invasion to 3,651.

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