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US urges Maliki to respect Iraqi political process

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gives press conference in Baghdad on January 13, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gives press conference in Baghdad on January 13, 2014

The White House on Wednesday urged Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki to step aside and allow the man nominated to become his successor as prime minister to form a government.

"He needs to respect that process," US national security spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters. "This is what the Iraqis themselves have decided to do."

President Barack Obama on Monday threw his weight behind the choice of Haidar al-Abadi to form a new government, appealing to Maliki, without directly naming him, to peacefully turn over power.

"The White House will be very glad to see a new government in place with prime minister Abadi at the lead of that government," Rhodes said.

"We believe it's necessary, frankly, to bring the country together," he said, blaming sectarian divisions for a loss of confidence in the government and advances by Islamic militants.

"We will be providing, training and equipping security assistance and advice to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. And then we can begin to squeeze the space where ISIL's operating," he said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known simply as the Islamic State.

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