Iraq still looking for new government

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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. We begin today's program in Iraq. The US combat mission there is officially over. The number of American soldiers in the country is now belong 50,000. But Iraqi insurgents have been capitalizing on the gaps in security as the US scales back its military presence. Insurgents have been hammering Iraqi forces and government buildings. Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians have failed to overcome their differences and form a new government. Correspondent Susannah George reports on the growing frustration in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

SUSANNAH GEORGE: Iraq's parliament has held just one official session since the national elections in March. It lasted less than 20 minutes. That was just enough time to play the Iraqi national anthem and complete the swearing in. About 20 Iraqi legislators met yesterday in an informal session. The lawmakers pledged to make decisions, not speeches. But the only decision they made was to continue to meet this week. Still, Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi who was at the meeting, expressed hope that it could yield results.

ADEL ABDUL MAHDI: It will put the pressure on the members of the House of Representatives individually and the blocs. I think we accomplished a good step forward.

GEORGE: But not all the Members of Parliament share the vice president's optimism. They point out that while the violence continues, there is still no government.

MAHMOUD OTHMAN: It is still in square one.

GEORGE: Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman says that the politicians are getting nowhere.

OTHMAN: They meet each other always but believe me, all the meetings, all the talking, all this time, it didn't come up with a result because they want to � they're concentrating on one point, which blocs should form and who will be the prime minister.

GEORGE: Othman says that Iraqi politicians do not appear ready to lead.

OTHMAN: Even if they go into one government this way, then they will be against each other inside the government. They couldn't achieve much.

GEORGE: Still, the establishment of a weak government might not be the worst thing that could happen here. That's according to Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis group.

JOOST HILTERMANN: We're in a situation in Iraq where the choice is between civil war and some stability, but maybe not very effective government and I think of the two evils, civil war is the greatest one and we should avoid that really at all costs.

GEORGE: Hiltermann says the Iraqi politicians are making some progress behind the scenes, but that's not enough to satisfy Haider al-Abadi, a leading figure in the Dawa Party. Al-Abadi says he's embarrassed by the failure of Iraq's lawmakers to form a new government.

HAIDER AL-ABADI: Sometimes as a politician you cannot defend certain things. I cannot defend the stalemate of the political process. I think time is not on our side. Not the side of Iraq, not the side of the people.

GEORGE: As if to underline al-Abadi's point two car bombs went off in Baghdad yesterday as the politicians were meeting. The bombs killed at least 31 people. It was the worst violence here since president Obama formally declared an end to US combat operations in Iraq on September 1st. His administration says Iraqi forces are up to the task of protecting their own country. For The World, Susannah George in Baghdad