Iraq's Maliki stands firm on post of PM

Sat May 29, 2010 11:15am EDT
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By Khaled Farhan

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday his party would not compromise on its choice of government leader, resisting pressure from potential coalition partners for him to step aside.

Iraq is still without a government almost three months after an inconclusive March 7 parliamentary election, won by the cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Iraqiya fell short of a majority, and Maliki's mainly Shi'ite State of Law bloc, which came second, is negotiating with the third-place, Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance to form a coalition government.

State of Law want Maliki to remain at the helm of government, but he is opposed by a key component of INA, the Sadrist political movement of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia was crushed by government forces dispatched by Maliki in 2008.

Asked whether State of Law might propose a compromise candidate, Maliki replied: "Absolutely not. State of Law insists on its candidate."

"Forming a government requires understandings, not concessions, based on the constitution," he said after meeting Iraq's most revered Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, some 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

He said the two groups were close to agreeing on a name for their alliance, formalising its position as the largest bloc in the 325-seat parliament.

Maliki says this will give it the right to try to form a government ahead of Iraqiya, which won the election by a two-seat margin. Allawi disputes this.   Continued...