BAGHDAD - Iraq's election commission on Wednesday sent the final results of the March 7 elections to the Supreme Court for certification, which could clear a major obstacle to forming the new government after weeks of delay.
The results of the country's election have been in dispute for nearly three months, heightening tensions in Iraq's fragile democracy at a time when American forces are preparing to go home.
Commission spokesman Qassim al-Abboudi said the election body sent the results to the court after rejecting a number of last-minute appeals by candidates. There is no deadline for the court to certify the results, but U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said he anticipated that it would be soon.
"Iraq very much needs a functioning parliament," Hill said, "and they've now gone almost three months without one, and for these reasons and others, they really need to pick up the pace and put together a new government."
A number of factors have delayed the ability of election officials to send the results to the court until now.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whose political bloc came in a close second behind a Sunni-backed coalition, demanded a recount of the Baghdad votes, which took almost two weeks but resulted in no significant change to the outcome. And challenges by a committee vetting dozens of candidates for ties to Saddam Hussein's regime - some who actually won seats - further lengthened the process.
The Sunni-backed bloc, Iraqiya, won 91 seats in the 325-member parliament to Maliki's 89, but both sides fell far short of the 163 seats needed to form a majority.
Also yesterday, Iraq's government declared state-owned Iraqi Airways bankrupt and decided to liquidate it, seeking a way out of Kuwaiti demands for more than $1 billion in reparations in a dispute that dates back to Hussein's 1990 invasion of his oil-rich neighbor.
Kuwait Airways has long demanded $1.2 billion in reparations from Iraqi Airways for the alleged theft of 10 airplanes and millions of dollars' worth of spare parts during the invasion. It has sought to freeze the Iraqi company's assets worldwide.
Iraq says that the demand is unjust and that it should not be held accountable for Hussein's "illegal" regime. Kuwait says Iraq should pay for its past mistakes.
Iraq's Finance Ministry said the company would operate until it was fully liquidated, which, under Iraqi law, can take no longer than three years.