Iraq's Sadr and Amiri announce political alliance

Iraq: Al-Sadr allies with Fatah to form majority group

Iraq: Al-Sadr allies with Fatah to form majority group

Pro-Iranian militia chief Hadi al-Amiri's bloc won the second most votes in the parliamentary elections, making an alliance with him key to Sadr's effort to form a coalition with enough seats to hold a majority in parliament.

Amiri's Fatah (Conquest) Coalition came second with 47 seats, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Nasr (Victory) Coalition once seen as the frontrunner, came in third.

The two Shi'ite figures said they would keep the door open for other winning blocs to join them in forming a new government.

The move by Sadr, who is opposed to Iranian involvement in the country, is the first serious step towards forming a new government after weeks of negotiations between parties.

The cleric, who once led violent campaigns against the United States occupation of Iraq that ended in 2011, has emerged as an unlikely opponent of powerful Shia parties allied with neighbouring Iran and as a champion of the poor.

Amiri, a fluent Persian speaker, is Iran's closest ally in Iraq, having spent two years in exile there during the era of former President Saddam Hussein.

At a joint press conference with Amiri in the Shia holy city of Najaf on Tuesday, Sadr hailed the formation of "a true alliance to accelerate the formation of a national government away from any dogmatism".

"Our meeting was a very positive one". Last week, Iraq's parliament ordered a manual vote recount and sacked the commission that oversaw the polls amid mounting claims of electoral fraud.

Initial investigations, said al-Abadi, showed that Sunday's fire was deliberately lit by "criminals who seek to sabotage the political process from one side and to steal the voters' votes from another".

"This is a call to all those who care about national interests... we will set up committees to discuss with all ways to accelerate the drafting of a government program", said Amiri, whose group played a key role previous year in the defeat of the Islamic State group.

Iraq's May 12 elections, the fourth since the 2003 USA -led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities.

The Fatih alliance he led in the election was composed of political groups tied to Iran-backed militias who helped government forces dislodge Islamic State (IS) group militants from the third of Iraq they seized four years ago.