Iraq's Shiite Bloc Rejects Saudi Offer To Hold Crisis Talks

Iraq's Shiite alliance has turned down an offer extended by Saudi Arabia to host an all-party talks involving Iraqi political leaders for ending the months-long political deadlock that has prevented formation of a coalition government in that war-ravaged country after the indecisive March elections.

The National Alliance, a coalition of the Shiite-led political blocs in Iraq, said they were rejecting the Saudi offer as a deal that would lead to the formation of a coalition government appeared to be imminent after the country's highest court ordered Parliament to resume sessions last week.

"Though we express our appreciation to Saudi Arabia for its concern about the situation in Iraq and its willingness to provide support, we would like to confirm that Iraqi leaders are continuing their meetings to reach a national consensus," the Shiite alliance said in a joint statement issued on Sunday.

Their response came a day after Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah offered to host all-party talks in Riyadh for resolving the continuing political imbroglio since the March 7 elections. The Saudi Monarch had offered to hold the talks in Riyadh after the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage ends in mid-November.

"I invite his Excellency President Jalal Talabani ... and all parties that took part in the elections and the political process to your second country Saudi Arabia, to Riyadh, after the blessed Haj season (for a meeting)," King Abdullah said in his appeal to Iraqi leaders.

Despite the rejection of the Saudi offer by the Shiite alliance, the secularist al-Iraqiya coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have welcomed the Saudi Monarch's initiative.

Currently, Iraqi politicians are struggling to form a government since the March 7 parliamentary elections. Though the elections were widely seen as a crucial test for Iraq's national reconciliation process, none of the coalitions manged to secure the minimum number of 163 seats required to form a government.

Final results of the elections showed the secular al-Iraqiya coalition led by Allawi had won most number of the seats in the Iraqi Parliament, two more than the 89 seats won by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance.

Despite his coalition coming in second in the elections, Maliki has recently strengthened his bid for a second term in office by securing the support of a Shiite bloc led by anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr and the National Alliance.

The National Alliance came third at the polls with 70 seats, while another coalition comprising of blocs from the autonomous Kurdish region won 57 seats. The Kurdish coalition is also currently being wooed by Maliki's alliance to form a coalition government.

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