Iraqi PM Maliki pledges to fight on
Iraq's embattled prime minister has vowed to fight until the Islamic militants who have overrun much of the country are defeated, suggesting he will not step down despite pressure for him to do so.
Framing the debate over his future in democratic terms, Nouri al-Maliki sought to remind Iraqis - including his political rivals - that voters handed his State of Law bloc the most seats in parliament in April elections, and that he must "stand by them during this crisis that Iraq is passing through".
His bloc won the most seats but failed to gain a majority, meaning he needs allies in order to form a government.
The Sunni insurgent blitz that began early last month and swept across much of northern and western Iraq has been fuelled in part by grievances among the country's Sunni Muslim minority with Mr al-Maliki and his Shiite-led government.
Mr Al-Maliki, who has held the post since 2006, is being pressed to step aside, with even some of his former allies blaming his failure to promote reconciliation for fuelling Sunni support for the insurgency.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has even pressed lawmakers to quickly form a new government that can confront the militant threat and unite the country. Lawmakers failed in their first session of parliament on Tuesday to make any progress.
On Friday, Mr al-Sistani lamented the inability of political leaders to quickly agree on a new prime minister, describing it as "a regrettable failure" and urging them to redouble their efforts to form a new government that can lift the country out of its crisis, a cleric who represents him told worshippers in a sermon in the holy city of Karbala.
But Mr al-Maliki's statement suggested that he intended to fight any attempt to find a replacement for him, and he vowed to remain until the insurgents are defeated.
"Pulling out of the battlefield while facing terrorist organisations that are against Islam and humanity would show weakness instead of carrying out my legitimate, national and moral responsibility," Mr al-Maliki said. "I have vowed to God that I will continue to fight by the side of our armed forces and volunteers until we defeat the enemies of Iraq and its people."