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UNAMI chief urges Iraqi leaders to ‘act fast’ for end to political paralysis

Iraq’s leaders must push past ongoing political crisis for a “more resilient Iraq” to emerge, the United Nations’ top official in Iraq told a briefing of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, amid continuing popular protest and government failure to lock in a new prime minister.

“Out of the ongoing political crisis - a fairer, stronger and inherently more resilient Iraq can emerge...for this to materialize, political leaders will have to act fast, and place the country’s interests above everything else,” said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned in November in the face of mass protests in Iraq’s southern and central provinces, demanding the removal of the post-2003 political elite, an overhaul of the political system, and early elections. Little real change has yet been achieved.

Since Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, Iraq’s various political blocs were locked in talks to nominate a suitable candidate to replace him – no easy feat for such a deeply entrenched elite in such a deeply divided society.

Political parties at last reached an agreement in early February to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as Abdul-Mahdi’s successor.

Allawi was given a free hand by Shiite parties to choose an independent cabinet on the condition that Kurds and Sunnis grant him the same freedom. His insistence to appoint candidates himself, however, caused tensions with Kurdish representatives.

Allawi submitted his resignation following his inability to secure parliamentary approval to form a cabinet on Sunday.

Political parties are once again in talks to nominate a new candidate for appointment by Iraqi President Barham Salih. The premier designate will be charged with forming the next governmental cabinet.

“The ongoing political indecisiveness and dissension, leading to a further paralysis in decision-making, unfortunately do not give cause for immediate optimism. The country and its people continue to be pushed into the unknown,” Hennis-Plasschaert said.