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Maliki hopes for progress on forming government

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has expressed hope that parliament will make progress on forming a new government when it meets again next Tuesday.

Maliki spoke on state-run TV on Wednesday, the day after the newly convened parliament ended its session after just 90 minutes without even choosing a speaker. Sunni and Kurd lawmakers opposed to the Shia prime minister walked out of the session.

Maliki said he hopes parliament in the next session can overcome problems with cooperation and openness.

Maliki also criticized Masoud Barzani, the leader of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, for his plans to hold a referendum in the coming months to seek independence.

Maliki said the move is an attempt to take advantage of the political confusion and violates the constitution.

Maliki hopes to remain in power and is trying to show that he can calm the situation.

But Sunnis and Kurds are demanding that he step down, saying his favoritism toward Shias allowed the rise of Islamist insurgents.

Creating a unified national government is expected to face difficulties amid the deepening sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Jul. 3, 2014 - Updated 03:11 UTC