Under the watchful eye of Saudi King Abdullah and his intelligence chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is drawing nearer to winning enough support to form a government.
Al-Maliki is pushing his momentum gained from his recent near-miss in parliament by appealing to all rival parties to show "flexibility and realism", reports the Tehran Times. He showed no signs of giving way. "All of us, from all affiliations, have to sit together and talk and talk, even if it takes longer, until we reach a meeting point," he said to opposing Sunni tribal leaders in Baghdad.
Tehran Times says this is a "hint at growing confidence by al-Maliki that he's in a position to call the shots over possibly forming a new government and dividing up the key posts and Cabinet seats among the country's three main factions: majority Shias, Sunnis and Kurds."
Having won over previous opposition from a Shia faction he's now looking to Kurdish parties. If he can convince them to back him he will gain a majority in parliament. This is despite the rival Sunni bloc coming top in the spring vote. It has been unable to find enough partners to push Al-Maliki aside.
Foreign powers are showing continued interest in the ongoing contest. USA Vice President Joe Biden called President Barzani, head of the Kurdistan region, to confirm that the United States supported a government formed from national partnerships that reflect the results of the election, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government. However, Mr Biden said in the conversation that the USA does not support any individual candidates.
Former Iraq PM Iyad Allawi was at a meeting over Iraq's political situation with King Abdullah, the intelligence chief and Saudi amabassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir, according to AFP.
Analysts believe that al-Maliki is too close to Iran for Saudi Arabia's tastes. Allawi's Iraqiya bloc received two more seats than Al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance in the election, but the two sides were unable to come to a deal, despite Saudi Arabia's worries that it is necessary to prevent instability.
Echoing America, a Saudi official said: "Choosing a prime minister is an issue for the Iraqi people."
With a Kurdish political negotiator saying his bloc is close to a deal with Al-Maliki, this is sure to anger Sunnis, writes Gulf News. One of the key issues was making a priority the return of land to Kurdish people who were pushed out during Saddam Hussain's regime. However, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is not so positive: "We are not very close to the final solution," he said.
Even so, Al-Maliki looks increasingly like the man to form the next Iraq government.
(Sources: Gulf News, Kurdistan Regional Government, Tehran Times)