BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The acting speaker of Iraq's newly elected parliament, Mehdi al-Hafidh, told lawmakers on Tuesday the country needed to restore stability and security so it could move on to the "right" path.
Sunni insurgents have captured large swathes of territory in Iraq's north over the past three weeks and have been in control of land in the west since January.
The new parliament, elected in April, is under pressure to form a government quickly to confront the crisis. Formation of the last Shi'ite-led government in 2010 took nearly 10 months, a delay officials say the country can now ill-afford. Shi'ites also won the most seats in April.
"The security setback that has beset Iraq must be brought to a stop, and security and stability have to be regained all over Iraq, so that it can head down the path in the right way toward the future," Hafidh told the parliament's first session.
Under the system put in place after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the speaker of parliament is usually a Sunni Muslim. The prime minister is usually Shi'ite and the largely ceremonial role of president is Kurdish.
Lawmakers stood as an orchestra played the national anthem after which a Quranic verse emphasising unity was read out. Lawmakers then took a recess to discuss who to nominate for speaker and two deputies.
(Reporting by Isra' al-Rubei'i and Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by John Stonestreet and Sonya Hepinstall)