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New Iraq prime minister chosen; Maliki refuses to step down

On Monday in Baghdad Iraqi President Fuad Massoum chose Dr. Haider al-Abadi as Prime Minister-designate of the nation, charging him with the task of building a strong inclusive government, though according to the UN News Center and the New York Times current Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has announced that he would not willingly yield the office.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on Iraq, congratulating new steps by Iraqis to move towards a more inclusive government, Aug. 11, 2014.
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the choice, urging Abadi “to form a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society, in accordance with the constitutional time-frame.”

Ban further acknowledged that the threat if the “Islamic State” created by the militant group ISIS (also known as ISIL) may create a strain on the political process in Iraq.

The UN News Center noted that according to the Iraqi constitution, Abadi has up to thirty days to select his “Council of Ministers.” After this is completed, Maliki must step down as Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Maliki remains defiant, claiming that the Iraqi constitution was on his side and willing to fight his removal from office in the courts. Furthermore, he increased security forces in the streets of Baghdad and threatened that the military might step in to keep him in power.

President Massoum is a Kurdish Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jubouri is Sunni Muslim. With the selection of Abadi who is a Shi’ite Muslim, a unified Iraqi government where Shi’ite, Sunnis and Kurds share in the future growth of the country comes one step closer.

According to Reuters, while Maliki is also Shi’ite, confidence in his ability to create a coalition government with fair representation for Iraqis of all three groups has eroded to the point that the majority of Shi’ite members of the Iraqi Parliament do not support him and even the Shi’ite cleric Ali Sistani urged his departure.

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Abadi on Monday, stating,

“The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government, one that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis, and one that can unify the country’s fight against ISIL. Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort. Last month, the Iraqi people named a new President. Today, President Massoum named a new Prime Minister designate, Dr. Haider al-Abadi. Under the Iraqi constitution, this is an important step towards forming a new government that can unite Iraq’s different communities.”

While travelling in Sydney, Australia on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Maliki to step down without incident, remarking, according to the New York Times, “We believe that the government-formation process is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters."