Middle East

Political deadlock damaging Iraq security - minister

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Media captionIraq's six-month political stalemate comes under discussion in a barbershop

Six months after Iraq's parliamentary elections, a government minister has warned that the political deadlock is damaging the security situation.

Oil and electricity minister Hussein al-Shahristani told the BBC that insurgents were exploiting the failure to reach a power-sharing agreement.

Despite improvements in recent years, attacks remain a daily reality, killing hundreds each month.

On Sunday, insurgents attacked an army base in Baghdad, killing 12 people.

American soldiers were called in to help Iraqi forces fight the insurgents, in the first such use of US troops since the end of the US combat mission five days ago.

Deadlock

Iraqi voters went to the polls on 7 March, but returned a hung parliament. Six months on, there is still no government.

First there was the election, hailed for being inclusive and relatively peaceful. Then there was a recount, with millions of ballots sifted through by hand, says the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad.

The result, however, stayed the same: a parliament that is hung - so finely balanced that the politicians still cannot decide who should form the next government, our correspondent says.

Hussein al-Shahristani, a close ally of the prime minister in Iraq's caretaker government - effectively the same government that was in power before the election - told the BBC that bombers have been able to exploit political differences to their advantage.

"The security could have been handled more firmly," he said. "Now the terrorists are hoping that by having these political differences they can penetrate through the cracks in the political system."

On Tuesday morning, a small group of activists and politicians gathered outside the Iraqi parliament in protest at the six-month stalemate.

Politicians blamed

In other areas of life, the absence of a new government has had little impact - jobs are scarce and public services are patchy at best, our correspondent says.

As the US winds down its military involvement in Iraq, many Iraqis are pondering their legacy of democratic government. Some are wondering why they bothered voting if they still didn't get to change their leaders, adds our correspondent.

Feisal Istrabadi, Iraq's former ambassador to the UN, blames the country's politicians for the deadlock.

"The problem is that the various political actors are attempting to secure their own place in government, rather than to think about the larger needs of the country," Mr Istrabadi, currently director for the study of the Middle East at Indiana University in the US, told the BBC's Today programme.

"Even if government were magically formed tomorrow, the ordinary citizen is completely disaffected. They have seen no benefit whatsoever for all the heartache and turmoil that they have gone through over the past eight years," he added.

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