Iraqi PM Maliki remains defiant as country burns

Just after the premier's suprise televised speech, officials reported a massive security deployment around Baghdad's green zone

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki indicated in a surprise speech late Sunday that he will not drop his bid for third term and accused the country’s new president of violating the constitution in a tough televised address, as parliament adjourned after being unable to choose a successor for Maliki's post.

Maliki, seen as a sectarian ruler, has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shiites and regional power broker Iran to step aside for a less polarizing figure.

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Maliki said he intended to file a complaint against new President Fuad Masum for violating the constitution.

“Today I will file a formal complaint to the federal court against the president,” he said, in a surprise address at midnight (2100 GMT on Saturday).

About 90 minutes before Maliki's speech, Iraqi police, army and counter-terrorism forces were deployed in unusually high numbers across strategic locations in Baghdad, security sources said early on Monday.

A high-ranking police officer told Agence France-Presse that the deployment started at around 10:30 pm (1930 GMT).

“There is security everywhere in Baghdad, these are very unusual measures that look like those we impose for a state of emergency,” the police official said.

“Several streets have been closed... as well as some key bridges,” said an official at the interior ministry. “It’s all linked to the political situation.”

The speech came the same day as Iraq’s parliament on Sunday adjourned until August 19 with lawmakers unable to agree on a nominee for the post of prime minister despite ever-growing international pressure, several MPs said.

“There can be no explanation for this delay,” said Ammar Toma, a Shiite MP from the Fadhilah party. “There are important matters on the table: the fate of the displaced, the security situation.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have, over the past two days alone, stressed that Iraq needed a new and united government to lead the fight against jihadists who control large parts of the country.

Many blame the crisis on Maliki, whose policies critics say marginalised Sunni Arabs, pushing them into the arms of jihadists.

Despite winning April polls comfortably, the deadly two-month-old conflict has made his position untenable.

Maliki has lost the support of many former allies, including Washington, Tehran, Iraq's influential Shiite religious leadership and a significant part of his own Dawa party.

But the 64-year-old has dug his heels in and Iraq's fractious parliament has so far been unable to agree on an alternative.

Earlier on Sunday, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north of the country.

The militant group had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children, Mohammad Shia al-Sudani said. He added that almost 300 women were kidnapped as slaves.

On Friday, the U.S. launched air strikes on ISIS militants in northern Iraq, destroying a militant convoy and mortar positions.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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