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Iraqi Parliament Meeting Again Postponed, Amid Deadlock

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has ruled the country since 2006, is under pressure to step aside.

Iraq's parliament has postponed its meeting until July 15 after ending a session that lasted just 30 minutes, with lawmakers still deadlocked over electing a new leadership.

Acting parliament speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh ended the brief meeting on July 13 "due to the absence of any agreement on the names of the nominees for the three posts."

The legislature is under pressure to quickly choose a new speaker of parliament, president, and prime minister -- the first steps toward forming a new government that Iraqis hope can confront a Sunni militant offensive.

The parliament elected in April met for the first time on July 1 but failed to agree on nominations for the top three government posts.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has ruled the country since 2006, is under pressure to step aside.

His government's inability to prevent the sweep of northern Iraq by Sunni Islamic militants, let alone roll back their advance, has sparked doubt in Iraq and abroad over his ability to hold Iraq together and lift it out of the crisis.

Maliki's opponents, and even many of his former allies, accuse him of trying to monopolize power and alienating the Sunni community.

Maliki has so far refused to withdraw his candidacy, and points to his State of Law bloc's capturing the most seats in April elections to claim he has a mandate.

The White House said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden talked on July 12 with Masud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and discussed the need to form a new government and peacefully resolve territorial disputes.

In a hopeful sign, the main Sunni political coalition late on July 12 chose lawmaker Salim al-Jaburi, a moderate Islamist, as its nominee for parliament speaker.

Also on July 12, Iraqi troops supported by Shi'ite militias battled Sunni militants who had seized at least partial control of a military base outside the town of Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers north of Baghdad.

To the west of Baghdad, the government airlifted some 4,000 volunteers to Ramadi to boost their forces trying to defend the city from militant attack, said General Rashid Flayeh, the commander of operations in Anbar Province.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP