World Bulletin / News Desk
Parliament Speaker and Sunni leader Usama al-Nujaifi said Wednesday that his coalition would not join "any alliance whatsoever" with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqis head to the polls for a key parliament vote.
"We will hold off on talk of alliances until results of the parliament polls have been announced. But we've drawn a red line when it comes to [coalitions with] al-Maliki," al-Nujaifi told reporters Wednesday.
Al-Maliki, who leads a Shiite-dominated coalition in the current parliament, has faced mounting criticism from Sunni MPs who accuse him of sponsoring a heavy-handed crackdown on Sunni dissent and marginalizing Sunnis.
Al-Nujaifi's "United for Reform" coalition currently holds 25 of 328 seats in the assembly, which was elected in 2005.
Iraqis began heading to the polls at 4am (GMT) to elect 328 parliamentarians. Some 20 million Iraqis are eligible to cast ballots.
The voting will take place amid myriad security challenges, particularly in the western, predominately-Sunni Anbar province and in certain parts of the country's north, where government forces continue to battle militant groups.
Political agreements that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq stipulate that the presidency be reserved for a Kurd, the premiership for a Shiite and the post of parliamentary speaker for a Sunni.
The largest electoral bloc in Iraq's parliament has the right to nominate candidates for the premiership and for other senior cabinet posts.
Iraq kills 18 Anbar militants as polls open
Iraqi forces killed 18 rebels affiliated with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) on Wednesday in a security operation in the restive Anbar province, a security source said as Iraqis headed to the polls for a key parliament vote.
"Over 18 ISIL militants were killed in a security operation by joint army and police forces in Anbar's Karmah, Bou Jassem and Bou Obeid districts," the source, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
Iraqi authorities are yet to comment on the reports..
The Iraqi army has waged a major offensive in Anbar since last December with the stated aim of flushing rebels – who Baghdad claims are linked to Al-Qaeda – from the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Many local Sunni tribes opposed to Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, meanwhile, continue to voice anger over the army operation's mounting civilian death toll.
Since the offensive began late last year, hundreds of civilians have been killed and injured in Ramadi and Fallujah, according to government officials.
Iraq poll results will be 'blow to ISIL'
The success of Iraqi parliamentary polls, currently underway, will be a blow to the rebel Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group, which the government has been battling for months, Iraq's transport minister said on Wednesday.
"The election results will be a blow to the terrorist ISIL organization and anyone else who sought to undermine Iraqis," Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri told Anadolu Agency.
"We insisted on holding the vote on schedule against everyone who was betting that we would postpone it," he said.Last Mod: 30 Nisan 2014, 16:06