Iraq PM Bullish on Forming Govt. but Won't Cling to Job

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday he had enough support to build a coalition government after elections a day earlier, but insisted he would not cling to the job.

Maliki, seeking a third term following his country's first polls since U.S. troops withdrew, faces significant opposition from within his own Shiite community, as well as minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

He has been criticized over a marked deterioration in security as well as rampant corruption, high unemployment and what his rivals say has been insufficient improvement in basic services.

But with vote counting having only just started and final results not expected for at least two weeks, he said "we have an ability to pass the 165 (seat threshold)" required to form a majority government.

"We have confidence that we will achieve a political majority," he added.

Following elections in 2005 and 2010, Iraqi leaders agreed to national unity governments that included all of the country's major parties and communal groups, but Maliki has vowed not to pursue such a track again.

"I am warning against going back to the sectarian (quotas), and I will not be part of it," he said.

The premier insisted he was willing to give up the post if he was unable to form a government, saying: "My mother did not give birth to me as a minister or a prime minister."

"I am not interested in this subject (of being prime minister)," he said, before adding: "At the same time... if I were the choice, I would consider myself obliged to respond."

Maliki's bloc is tipped to win the most seats, but the consensus among analysts is that no single party will gain an outright majority. Consequently, Iraq's various political alliances and communal groups will have to form coalitions.

Complicating matters further is the fact that the three main positions of power -- the president, typically a Kurd, the prime minister, normally a Shiite, and the speaker of parliament, usually a Sunni Arab -- are often negotiated as an encompassing package.

Maliki's critics have accused him of concentrating power and marginalizing the Sunni minority, and say public services have not sufficiently improved during his eight-year rule.

The prime minister contends the violence is fueled by the conflict in neighboring Syria and has accused Sunni Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing insurgents.

Source: Agence France Presse

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