- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s new parliament was sworn in yesterday with parties still deadlocked over the next government, vehicles banned from Baghdad’s streets and the country under the shadow of a feared civil war.

The long-expected first session, which took place within days of the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, lasted slightly more than 30 minutes and was adjourned indefinitely because the legislature has no speaker.

Adnan Pachachi, the senior politician who administered the oath in the absence of a speaker, spoke of a country in crisis.

“We have to prove to the world that a civil war is not and will not take place among our people,” Mr. Pachachi told lawmakers. “The danger is still looming, and the enemies are ready for us because they do not like to see a united, strong, stable Iraq.”

As Mr. Pachachi spoke, he was interrupted from the floor by senior Shi’ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who said the remarks were inappropriate because of their political nature.

Even the oath was a source of disagreement, with the head of the committee that drafted the country’s new constitution, Humam Hammoudi, protesting that lawmakers had strayed from the text. After brief consultations, judicial officials agreed that the wording was acceptable.

In Sydney, Australia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she understood that it was difficult to see progress in Iraq when images of violence dominate the news, but she called for patience.

“I think that there is a very good chance that the Iraqi people, with the support of their coalition partners, will have built the foundation for a stable and secure Iraq over the next couple of years,” she said at the start of a three-day visit to Australia, where she was heckled occasionally.

“I believe that, like many peoples who’ve gone through the trials of trying to build a democracy, they are going to succeed,” she said of the Iraqis.

“And we should express confidence in them, because every time they have been confronted with a challenge … they have been able to move the next step ahead in the political process.”

A pianist played as representatives of Iraq’s main ethnic and religious blocs — many in traditional Arab and Kurdish dress — filed into a convention center behind the concrete blast walls of the heavily fortified Green Zone for the parliament’s first meeting.

The inaugural session started the clock on a 60-day period in which the parliament must elect a new president and approve a new prime minister and Cabinet.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was optimistic.

“If politicians work seriously, we can have a government within a month,” he said.

Mr. al-Jaafari’s candidacy for a second term as prime minister is at the center of the political logjam that delayed the parliament’s first session for more than a month after the results of the Dec. 15 elections were approved.

Staff writer Nicholas Kralev in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.

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