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Shiite bloc suspends talks, undermining Maliki's chances to remain Iraq's leader

An Iraqi army soldier searches a man at checkpoint at Azamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 31, 2010. Authorities announced a partial lifting of a curfew imposed on the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah Thursday following a brazen daylight attack by al-Qaida militants who killed 16 members of the security forces at a checkpoint there before burning some of their bodies and planting the black banner of the terror network. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
An Iraqi army soldier searches a man at checkpoint at Azamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 31, 2010. Authorities announced a partial lifting of a curfew imposed on the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah Thursday following a brazen daylight attack by al-Qaida militants who killed 16 members of the security forces at a checkpoint there before burning some of their bodies and planting the black banner of the terror network. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (Khalid Mohammed - AP)

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Officials from the Iraqi National Alliance, the coalition of religious Shiite parties that suspended talks with Maliki, said they wanted to pick someone else for the top job.

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"We found that our negotiations with State of Law weren't serious," said Bahaa al-Aaraji, a member of parliament, referring to Maliki's slate.

Aaraji said the religious parties would open a new round of talks with their counterparts in Allawi's bloc and a Kurdish coalition in coming days. He said they would resume talks with Maliki's slate only if he agrees to nominate a substitute candidate for prime minister.

Ezzat Shahbandar, a lawmaker from Maliki's slate, played down the significance of the suspended talks, saying the religious parties were "putting themselves out of the equation."

The political bickering has angered residents as government services deteriorate and attacks kill scores of civilians each month.

At least 396 civilians died in attacks in July, according to Iraqi government officials who compile data from records kept by the Interior, Defense and Health ministries.

At least 680 civilians were wounded in attacks, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the government does not release the data publicly. The July figures also show that 50 Iraqi soldiers and 89 police officers were killed.

The U.S. military disputed the accuracy of the figures, saying far fewer people were killed in July.

Special correspondents Aziz Alwan and Jinan Hussein contributed to this report.


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