Ruling that may allow Iraq PM Maliki to retain post problematic -official

by Reuters
Monday, 11 August 2014 08:47 GMT

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BAGHDAD, Aug 11 (Reuters) - A decision by Iraq's highest court that could pave the way for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to serve a third term is "very problematic", said a senior Iraqi official.

"This will make the situation very, very complex," said the official, who asked not to be named due to sectarian sensitivities in Iraq.

Critics say Maliki is a sectarian and authoritarian ruler who can be compared to Saddam Hussein, the man he plotted against from exile for years.

Iraq's federal court ruled that Maliki's State of Law bloc is the biggest in parliament, obliging the president to ask Maliki to form a new government in Iraq, which faces a major threat from Islamic State Sunni insurgents and widespread sectarian bloodshed.

Maliki has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some Shi'ites and regional power broker Iran to step aside for a less polarising figure who can unite Iraqis against Sunni insurgents who staged another dramatic offensive in the north over the past week.

The United States, which was key to Maliki taking office as an unknown in 2006, has also suggested it is time for him to go.

On Sunday night, police said special forces loyal to Maliki were deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad after he delivered a tough speech on television accusing Iraq's Kurdish president of violating the constituion by missing a deadline to ask the biggest bloc in parliament to nominate a prime minister. (Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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