Iraq's PM rejects calls to quit

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Baghdad, June 19: Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he will not quit as a condition for air support against Sunni militants after US President Barack Obama came under pressure from senior politicians to persuade the leader to step down, a British daily reported on Thursday.

"Our focus needs to be on urgent action -- air support, logistic support, counter-intelligence support to defeat these terrorists who are posing a real danger to the stability of Iraq, to the whole region," the Guardian quoted Maliki's spokesperson Zuhair al-Nahar as saying in a radio programme Thursday. He added that Maliki, a Shia Muslim, had "never used sectarian tactics".

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari Wednesday urged the US to launch air strikes against militants threatening Baghdad but senior US politicians want Obama to persuade Maliki to step down over what they see as failed leadership in the face of an insurgency.

Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said Wednesday that Maliki's government "has got to go if you want any reconciliation", and Republican John McCain called for the use of US air power but also urged Obama to "make very clear to Maliki that his time is up".

Although the White House has not called for Maliki to go, spokesperson Jay Carney said that whether Iraq was led by Maliki or a successor, "We will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance."

IANS

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