By Rebecca Shabad - 07/01/14 08:51 AM EDT
Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the first session of the Iraqi parliament Tuesday, impeding efforts backed by the United States to form a new unified national government.
After less than two hours, Acting Speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh called off the session after most of the 328-member legislature’s Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers didn’t return after a short break, The Associated Press reported.
Their absence prevented the parliament from having a sufficient number of lawmakers for a quorum.
Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, appeared to reject calls for a national unity government that embraces Sunnis and Kurds, but said he was still committed to a new government.
The Obama administration has been pushing this course of action as part of the response against Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over much of Iraq's north.
Iraq had declared a national holiday for the convening of the parliament; shops and businesses closed in the nation’s capital and a large number of troops patrolled the city, The New York Times said.
The United Nations on Tuesday said Iraq had one of the highest monthly death tolls in June. More than 2,400 people were killed last month including 1,531 civilians, according to the figures. Nearly 2,300 were also injured last month in acts of terrorism.