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BAGHDAD -- Senior Iraqi politicians say a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his main election rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, has given a major push forward in ongoing talks on forming a new government, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

The two met June 29 for only the second time since the inconclusive March 7 elections.

Allawi's Iraqiyah bloc won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. But the country's two largest Shi'ite electoral blocs -- Maliki's State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance -- said in May they were forming an alliance with the aim of forming a government.

Politicians who spoke to RFI spoke of two potential breakthroughs emerging from this week's talks.

Senior Iraqiyah member Jamal al-Battikh said State of Law proposed that it retain the premiership, while Iraqiyah fill the posts of speaker of parliament and president. Battikh added that the proposal will have a good chance of being accepted if a consensus is reached between the major factions on all other issues.

Abdel Hadi al Hassani, a leading member of the recently launched coalition between the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance, said that when the parliament convenes within the next 14 days the two Shi'ite blocs will have agreed on a single nominee for prime minister to present to the legislature. He said the other blocs are expected to nominate their candidates for speaker of parliament and president.

A mutually acceptable nominee for prime minister has been the main bone of contention between the Sadrists, who are the biggest faction within the Iraqi National Alliance, and the State of Law coalition.

Alia Nusayif al Jassim, a senior official in Iraqiyah, told RFI that encouraged by the common grounds reached between Maliki and Allawi, the
two leaders have instructed their negotiating teams to speed up talks toward an agreement that will end the deadlock.

Izzet al Shahdandar, a leading State of Law member, told RFI that the meeting is a step that will go a long way toward breaking the deadlock and prompt the respective factions to meet the deadlines laid down by the constitution to form a functioning government.

Analyst and legal expert Tariq Harb told RFI that talks between the factions are no longer focused on who will be nominated to form a new government. Rather, he said, they are aimed at a package deal that includes all three heads of the legislative and executive branches -- speaker of parliament, president, and prime minister.
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