Baghdad The speaker of Iraq's fragmented parliament threatened Tuesday to disband the legislature, saying it is so riddled with distrust it appears unable to adopt the budget or agree on a law setting a date for provincial elections.
Disbanding parliament would prompt new elections within 60 days and undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's shaky government, which is limping along with nearly half of the 40 Cabinet posts vacant.
The disarray undermines the purpose of last year's U.S. troop "surge" - to bring down violence enough to allow the Iraqi government and parliament to focus on measures to reconcile differences among minority Sunnis and Kurds and the majority Shiites. Violence is down dramatically, but political progress languishes.
Iraq's constitution allows Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the hot-tempered speaker and a member of the minority Sunni faction, to dissolve parliament if one-third of its members request the move and a majority of lawmakers approve. Al-Mashhadani said he already had sufficient backing for the move from five political blocs, but he refused to name them.
Al-Mashhadani said the Iraqi treasury had already lost $3 billion by failing to pass the budget before the end of 2007. He did not explain how the money was lost.
He blamed the lack of a budget on Kurdish politicians who have refused to back down from a demand that their regional and semiautonomous government be guaranteed 17 percent of national income.