Iraqi nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iranian-backed militia chief Hadi al-Ameri were set to lead talks on Wednesday to form a government in Baghdad after announcing an alliance of their political blocs.
Sadr and Ameri’s groupings won first and second place respectively in May’s election, which has been beset by allegations of fraud and raised fears of bloodshed among Shia paramilitary groups.
They announced the alliance in the Shia holy city of Najaf, an apparent attempt to project unity among leaders of the Muslim sect that has dominated since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
A week ago, an explosion killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 90 in Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City district, in what the interior ministry called “a terrorist aggression on civilians”.
State television reported on Wednesday that the Supreme Judicial Council had issued arrest warrants for 20 people in connection with the blast.
The Sadr-Ameri pact could ease fears of violence, which some have said could even spiral into intra-Shia civil war.