Maliki Is Focus of Talks That Would Unite His Enemies

Talks are under way in Baghdad to form a new political alliance that could potentially replace the government currently headed by Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish parliamentarian, said that talks had been under way for a while for the formation of a new coalition of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds but that they had recently begun anew.

There is dissatisfaction here with Maliki's government, which has failed to curb sectarian violence.

"If you can't solve problems," Othman said, "it is not possible to continue indefinitely."

However, Othman added, any move to force Maliki aside "would come from outside, not from inside."

Saleh Mutlaq, a Sunni parliamentarian, said that "the Americans are involved" in the effort to build a coalition against Maliki.

The United States has been frustrated with Maliki's inability to secure Iraq, but President Bush has called Maliki "the right guy" for Iraq.

Today, the White House denied that it was supporting anyone other than Maliki.

The president has met at the White House with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the most influential Shia bloc in parliament, who would figure prominently in the new alliance.

He is scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni who is also said to be involved in the talks.

Maliki's supporters said they had also heard about the possible formation of a new alliance.

Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc, which supports Maliki, confirmed the potential alliance among Kurds, Hakim's SCIRI party, and Hashemi's Sunni Islamic Party. He said the new alliance would meet with opposition.

The Iraqi constitution lists two ways to oust Maliki:

The president can submit a request to parliament for a vote of no confidence. A hearing must be held to question the integrity of the prime minister's government. Seven days after the hearing, one-fifth of the parliament (55 members) would have to submit a motion to the full parliament requesting a vote of no confidence.

If a simple majority (138 members) approves the motion of no confidence, the prime minister and his cabinet are considered out. The parliament remains intact and has 30 days to choose a new prime minister. The biggest alliance in the parliament has the right to produce a nominee for prime minister.

Parliament could decide to dissolve itself by a simple majority vote, if one-third of the parliamentarians requested such a vote.

The prime minister could also submit a request to dissolve parliament with the approval of the Iraqi president. Dissolving parliament automatically dissolves the cabinet and prime minister. Once either of those steps happen, the Iraqi president must call general elections within 60 days.

It is unclear how far along the talks are or when the new alliance will be announced. The groups involved have particular agendas that often run contrary to each other.

In the past, these kinds of discussions have broken down over unfulfilled promises.