Iraq's president failed in a bid to order parliament into session by March 12, further delaying formation of a government and raising questions whether the political process can withstand the unrelenting violence or disintegrate into civil war.
The deadlock came Monday as snipers assassinated Maj.-Gen. Mibder Hatim al-Dulaimi, the Sunni Arab in charge of Iraqi forces protecting the capital. A torrent of bombings and shootings killed 25 more Iraqis on Monday, ending a relative lull in violence. Officials also found four bodies.
At the heart of the dispute is a controversy over the second-term candidacy of the Shi'ite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose most powerful supporter is the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
In a bid to force a showdown in the dispute, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, announced he would order parliament to convene Sunday for the first time since the elections in December and the ratification of the results on February 12.
Such a meeting would have started a 60-day countdown for the legislators to elect a president, approve al-Jaafari's nomination as prime minister and sign off on his Cabinet.