Assad, Hakim Call for Iraqi Unity Government

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a joint call on Tuesday with visiting Iraqi Shiite leader Ammar al-Hakim for a national unity government to be formed in Iraq.

Assad and Hakim discussed "the ongoing dialogue between the various parliamentary blocs to find a solution to the formation of an Iraqi government," the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Both sides stressed the "importance of forming a national unity government that represents all Iraqi people," it added.

Hakim, who heads the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, is from the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) election coalition which came third in Iraq's March 7 legislative poll.

Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi premier and head of the secular Iraqiya bloc, held similar talks with the Syrian president in late September.

Iraq's main Shiite parliamentary bloc chose incumbent Nouri al-Maliki, Allawi's bitter rival for the post of premier, as its candidate for the position on Friday.

The announcement by the National Alliance, which remains short of an absolute majority in the 325-member Council of Representatives, was seen as the first sign of hope in months of a new government since the inconclusive elections.

Maliki's State of Law Alliance finished second in the polls, two seats behind the Iraqiya bloc, but neither had the 163 seats needed for a majority to form a government on its own.

In May, Maliki joined forces with Hakim's INA bloc to form the National Alliance.(AFP)