Iraq PM vows to 'never give up' on third term bid

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Baghdad, Jul 4: Iraq's premier insisted today he would "never give up" on a third term despite allegations at home and abroad of sectarianism and authoritarianism amid a sweeping jihadist-led offensive.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's remarks came after a farcical parliament session in which Iraq's various factions -- many of which strongly oppose Maliki staying in power -- failed to unite and choose a speaker of parliament, sparking criticism from the international community and the country's top Shiite religious leader.

With parliament next due to meet on Tuesday and Maliki facing widespread criticism for a militant advance that has overrun swathes of five provinces, the premier insisted he would fight to retain his job.

"I will never give up on my candidacy for the post of prime minister," Maliki said in a statement. The incumbent said that because his bloc won the most seats in April 30 elections, it retained the right to nominate the premier, and insisted rival groups had "no right" to impose conditions on the final selection.

Earlier Osama al-Nujaifi, who held the speaker's position in the previous parliament, announced he would not seek a new tenure, in a move seen as removing a key obstacle to Maliki's ouster despite the fact that the two men are rivals.

"The goal of change demands sacrifice, and I am willing to do this for the sake of my nation, its people and the future of my country," said Nujaifi, long a virulent critic of the premier. Deputies need to choose a speaker and then elect a president before they can move on to the formation of a government, and the key question of a possible third term for Maliki.

Under a de facto agreement, the speaker is typically a Sunni Arab, the prime minister a Shiite Arab and the president a Kurd. Maliki's remarks indicated the level of disunity between Iraq's major political blocs, which have been urged to come together and quickly form a government to help repel militant groups who, despite their offensive having stalled, retain large chunks of territory. It came after a chaotic opening to parliament last Tuesday when lawmakers failed to choose a new speaker and deputies exchanged threats before walking out.


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