Iraq’s Maliki steps aside as Premier, backs replacement

August 15, 2014 - 2:09:35 am

BAGHDAD: Facing enormous pressure at home and abroad to step aside, Nouri Al Maliki dropped his bid for a third term as prime minister of Iraq yesterday and pledged support for his replacement, moderate Shia Dr Haider Al Abadi.

Appearing on state television flanked by Al Abadi and other Shia politicians, Al Maliki spoke of the grave “terrorist” threat from Islamic State Sunni militants before giving up on his fight to stay on.

“I announce before you today, to ease the movement of the political process and the formation of the new government, the withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of brother Dr Haider Al Abadi,” he said.

Al Abadi is seen as a far less polarising figure who has a chance of uniting Iraqis against Sunni insurgents who have captured large parts of the country in the north and west, including Iraq’s largest dam and five oilfields.

Meanwhile, US jets and drones launched more air strikes in northern Iraq to destroy vehicles operated by extremist fighters from the Islamic State, the military said.

The latest operations came after President Barack Obama said the air campaign had achieved its initial objectives but warned of more strikes to protect US personnel in the Kurdish city of Arbil. He said the siege of the Sinjar mountain had broken.

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