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Iraqi PM throws in the towel on his bid to stay in power

Nuri al-Maliki was facing huge pressure to step down.

Image: AP Photo/Thierry Charlier

IRAQ’S DIVISIVE PREMIER Nuri al-Maliki has dropped his bid to stay in power, bowing to huge domestic and international pressure as a jihadist-led offensive threatens to tear the country apart.

The two-term premier threw in the towel after an acrimonious political battle and backed his designated successor Haidar al-Abadi, a fellow member of the Shiite party Dawa.

“I announce before you today… the withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of the brother Doctor Haidar al-Abadi,” he said in a televised address, with Abadi standing next to him.

Welcomed

His decision was swiftly welcomed by the US and the UN.

“Today, Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Maliki’s withdrawal “will allow the crucial process to form a new government to proceed swiftly and within the time frame provided for in the constitution.”

Pressing issues

He urged the formation of “an inclusive, broad-based government ready to immediately tackle these pressing issues.”

Maliki, 64, turned the page on eight years that saw him rise from the relative anonymity of a former exile who returned in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion to become a feared and powerful ruler.

He previously said he would sue the president in a desperate bid to cling to his job, deploying security forces across Baghdad even as violence raged in the north.

Quelling fears a desperate bid to cling to power could worsen what is already Iraq’s worst crisis in years, Maliki said he was stepping aside to “facilitate the progress of the political process and the formation of the new government.”

He defended his record at the helm but critics say his sectarian policies have alienated and radicalised the Sunni minority, most of whose heartland was overrun by extremist Islamic State fighters facing little or no popular resistance two months ago.

© AFP 2014

Read: US troops in Iraq find plight of refugees ‘better than feared’ >

More: What to do? The EU is to hold an extraordinary meeting on Iraq >

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