BAGHDAD - A new Iraqi government could be in place within two weeks, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, the Shiite candidate for prime minister, said on Wednesday shortly after the inauguration of Iraq's 275-member parliament.
"In my estimate the next two weeks will see the birth of a new government," Jafaari told reporters, denying that talks with the Kurdish alliance on forming a coalition had hit a stumbling block.
"We have not reached a dead end," said Jafaari, who heads the Islamist Dawa party, which is one of the main parts of the Shiite alliance.
"We are now discussing another set of issues, we are almost close to reaching a positive outcome."
He said both sides have agreed to defer the resolution of the thorny issue of the northern oil city of Kirkuk and the fate of the Kudish peshmerga (militia) to the country's interim laws.
The laws passed under the previous US-led occupation provides steps to taken to settle the issue of Kirkuk but its final status will not be determined until after elections scheduled for next December and after a census is conducted and land disputes are resolved.
The laws also call for all militia to be absorbed into the new Iraqi army.
"Although it is important that we form the government soon, it is more important for me that the government have broad consensus and be built on a solid base no matter how much time this takes." he said.
"We are thoroughly discussing and negotiating each controversial point that we come across"
Jafaari's deputy in the Dawa party, Jawad al-Maliky, said talks with the Kurds now centred on finalising the written agreement they have demanded on the character and vision of the next government. They are also concentrated on the distribution of posts for the presidential council, cabinet and speakership of parliament.
Maliky said the president will be Kurd, the deputies would be a Shiite and Sunni Arab and the speaker would be Sunni too.
A leading member of the Kurdish alliance and outgoing foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari was also confident of a pending deal with the alliance.
"I think soon, much sooner than many people expect and anticipate, this is a new experience for us, you have to be a little bit patient, we have waited for 80 years to redress some of he injustice of this Iraqi state," he told reporters.
Kurds who have enjoyed practical autonomy since the first Gulf War in 1991 are eager to enshrine their rights and new found liberties in a predominantly Arab state.