Maliki forced out of power in Baghdad after botched attempt to seize control
IRAQ'S president named a leading Shia politician as the country's new prime minister yesterday, driving Nouri al-Maliki, from office after eight years.
The nomination of Haider al-Abadi, currently Iraq's deputy parliament speaker, came hours after a defiant Mr Maliki ordered tanks and special forces to take up position in strategic points around Baghdad, in an action that smacked of an attempted coup.
As armour surrounded the Green Zone, where Baghdad's government offices are based, and troops locked down the presidential palace, Mr Maliki gave a surprise late night television address denouncing President Fouad Massoum and threatening legal action for not choosing him as the nominee.
Mr Maliki had ignored repeated calls both from domestic opponents - including some members of his own State of Law party - and from the US to step down, after the onslaught by jihadists from Islamic State.
Critics of the Iraqi prime minister accuse him of aggravating the crisis by practising sectarian politics.
They argue that the first step to regaining support from Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority - some of whom have supported Islamic State's takeover of swathes of Iraq - is for him to go. Washington welcomed the nomination of Mr Abadi and warned that efforts by Mr Maliki to stay in power risked destabilising Iraq further, and would also jeopardise international support for the Baghdad government.
"The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq," John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said in a pointed remark. "Our hope is that Mr Maliki will not stir those waters."
As police and elite armed units, many equipped and trained by America, patrolled Baghdad's streets, Mr Kerry added: "There should be no use of force, no introduction of troops or militias in this moment of democracy for Iraq."
The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, warned Iraqi security forces to refrain from actions that "may be seen as interference" in the democratic transfer of power. Britain, the EU and neighbouring Turkey all sent messages of support after Mr Abadi's nomination.
Mr Abadi, who as an opponent of Saddam Hussein spent years living in exile in Britain, is a member of Mr Maliki's party, but was nominated after a coalition of Shia political factions turned its back on the former prime minister. He has 30 days to form a new government.