The United Nations and Washington have praised Nouri al-Maliki for stepping down as Iraq’s prime minister. He bowed to domestic and international pressure, announcing his departure in a televised speech.
The UN’s top envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, praised al-Maliki’s decision to step down on Thursday as a “historic milestone,” that will allow for a peaceful transition of authority in the country.
In a televised speech announcing his departure, al-Maliki said he was withdrawing his candidacy in favor of fellow Dawa Party member, Haider al-Abadi.
The pressure on al-Maliki to resign intensified this week when his Shiite political alliance announced they would back al-Abadi, whom President Fouad Massoum nominated on Monday to form the next government. Al-Maliki subsequently refused to step aside, claiming the nomination violated the constitution.
Increased pressure for his resignation also came as a result of the mounting campaign by “Islamic State” (IS) militants across northern Iraq. Al-Maliki has been widely blamed for alienating the country’s Sunni minority from which IS has drawn support.
Praise from Washington
The White House also commended al-Maliki for dropping his bid for a third term.
“Today, Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” US national security adviser Susan Rice said in a statement.
“These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people against the threat presented by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” Rice said referring to the “Islamic State,” which was previously known as ISIS.
President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to expand US humanitarian relief to Iraqis threatened by advancing IS militants. He also said US airstrikes would continue to protect Americans and US facilities in the country.
On Wednesday, Washington said a possible US mission to rescue thousands of civilians – including members of the Yazidi religious minority – from Iraq’s Mount Sinjar is less likely to take place after special forces assessed that there are fewer civilians trapped than previously feared. They fled to the mountain to escape an advance by IS fighters.
hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)