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Iraq parliament staff return to work for 1st time since July amid planned national dialog

This file photo shows a view of the Iraqi parliament’s interior.

Staff at Iraq's parliament has returned to work for the first time since late July, as various factions agree to hold national dialog to resolve an ongoing political stalemate and leadership vacuum in the Arab country. 

"All parliament staff have returned to work," following orders issued on Saturday night, an unnamed parliament official said.

"Operations in parliament had been suspended since protesters stormed the legislature's building,” he added.

 The development came as speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi suggested an agenda for an upcoming national dialog session.

 In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, Halbusi suggested an agenda for a second national dialog session, following a previous round that was held on August 17.

Halbusi also said they should "set a date for early parliamentary elections" and discuss the election of a new president and formation of a government.

Tensions have built up in Iraq amid a political crisis that has left the country without a new government for months. Violence erupted on Monday afternoon as Iraqi supporters of prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the government palace inside the Green Zone after their leader announced his resignation from politics.

Sadr’s supporters withdrew on Tuesday from Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone after he demanded an end to two days of unrest that left 30 dead and hundreds wounded.

Sadr had given his followers “60 minutes” to withdraw after which he would “disavow” those who remained.

Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in October as the biggest parliamentary faction, but was still far short of a majority, causing the longest political vacuum in the country since the 2003 devastating invasion of the Arab country led by the United States.

In June, all 73 legislators of the bloc quit their seats in a move seen as an attempt to pressure political rivals into fast-tracking the formation of a government.

According to Iraqi laws, if any seat in parliament becomes vacant, the candidate who obtains the second-highest number of votes in their electoral district replaces them.

This means that many of the seats vacated by Sadrists will therefore be filled by member parties of the Coordination Framework Alliance, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Fatah Alliance, which is the political wing of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU),  better known as Hashd al-Sha’bi.

Like Sadr, other top Iraqi figures also denounced violence and called for calm.

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