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Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party rejected the nominee, Haider al-Ibadi, as al-Maliki deployed elite security forces loyal to him in the streets of Baghdad to close two main avenues and hundreds of his supporters held a rally, raising fears that he may use force to stay in power.

The mounting political showdown comes as the United States beefed up its role in fighting back Sunni Muslim radicals whose dramatic expansion is threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State group.

U.S. warplanes carried out new strikes Monday, hitting a militant convoy moving to attack Kurdish forces defending the autonomous zone’s capital, Irbil. American strikes in recent days helped bring one of the Kurds first victories after weeks of retreat as peshmerga fighters over the weekend recaptured two towns near Irbil.

But the political wrangling in Baghdad adds new instability as the country tries to deal with the Islamic State group, which has overrun much of the north and west.

Al-Maliki has been insisting for weeks that he has the right to stay as prime minister, even as many of his fellow Shiites push for his replacement, accusing him of monopolizing power. Other criticis accuse al-Maliki of pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite political agenda that has helped fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Al-Ibadi was nominated for the prime minister’s post Monday by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc. Then in a televised address, President Fouad Massoum officially picked al-Ibadi to form a new government, giving him 30 days to do so and present it to parliament for approval.

Hours earlier, al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Al-Maliki’s Dawa party issued a televised statement rejecting the new nominee, saying he did not have the support of the party.

“Al-Ibadi represents only himself,” said party spokesman Khalaf Abdul-Samad surrounded by stone-faced party members, including al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki’s backers in the streets waved posters of the incumbent, singing and dancing and chanting, “We are with you, al-Maliki.”

Al-Ibadi is a British-educated lawmaker with a background in electrical engineering and a member of al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party. He has been closely involved in previous governments.

His nomination by the Shiite alliance brought into the open the long-simmering revolt among Shiite parties against al-Maliki, the Shiite politician who has been in the post for eight years.

The powerful Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement controls dozens of seats in parliament, expressed his support for al-Ibadi’s nomination, describing it as the “first sign” the country was headed back to safety.

“I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems,” he said in a statement.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Sadrist movement, cautioned the military, which includes units directly loyal to al-Maliki, not to intervene.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Britain has expressed support for Ibadi’s nomination and Vice President Joe Biden called Massoum to express U.S. support and commend him on the nomination.

The American move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State group’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

On Sunday, Kurdish peshemerga fighters retook two towns from the militants- Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Irbil.

The successes, however, were balanced out by news of a defeat in eastern Diyala province where Kurdish forces were driven out of the town of Jalula after fierce fighting against Sunni militants.

The militants blasted their way into the town at midnight using a truck bomb followed up with several suicide bombers on foot, said a police officer and a army official, adding that at least 14 Kurdish fighters were killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The journalists’ rights group Reporters Without Borders said Monday that a Turkish journalist – Leyla Yildizhan, who is Kurdish and uses the pseudonym Deniz Firat – was killed by a mortar Friday in fighting between peshmerga and militants.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party rejected the nominee, Haider al-Ibadi, as al-Maliki deployed elite security forces loyal to him in the streets of Baghdad to close two main avenues and hundreds of his supporters held a rally, raising fears that he may use force to stay in power.

The mounting political showdown comes as the United States beefed up its role in fighting back Sunni Muslim radicals whose dramatic expansion is threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State group.

U.S. warplanes carried out new strikes Monday, hitting a militant convoy moving to attack Kurdish forces defending the autonomous zone’s capital, Irbil. American strikes in recent days helped bring one of the Kurds first victories after weeks of retreat as peshmerga fighters over the weekend recaptured two towns near Irbil.

But the political wrangling in Baghdad adds new instability as the country tries to deal with the Islamic State group, which has overrun much of the north and west.

Al-Maliki has been insisting for weeks that he has the right to stay as prime minister, even as many of his fellow Shiites push for his replacement, accusing him of monopolizing power. Other criticis accuse al-Maliki of pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite political agenda that has helped fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Al-Ibadi was nominated for the prime minister’s post Monday by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc. Then in a televised address, President Fouad Massoum officially picked al-Ibadi to form a new government, giving him 30 days to do so and present it to parliament for approval.

Hours earlier, al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Al-Maliki’s Dawa party issued a televised statement rejecting the new nominee, saying he did not have the support of the party.

“Al-Ibadi represents only himself,” said party spokesman Khalaf Abdul-Samad surrounded by stone-faced party members, including al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki’s backers in the streets waved posters of the incumbent, singing and dancing and chanting, “We are with you, al-Maliki.”

Al-Ibadi is a British-educated lawmaker with a background in electrical engineering and a member of al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party. He has been closely involved in previous governments.

His nomination by the Shiite alliance brought into the open the long-simmering revolt among Shiite parties against al-Maliki, the Shiite politician who has been in the post for eight years.

The powerful Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement controls dozens of seats in parliament, expressed his support for al-Ibadi’s nomination, describing it as the “first sign” the country was headed back to safety.

“I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems,” he said in a statement.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Sadrist movement, cautioned the military, which includes units directly loyal to al-Maliki, not to intervene.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Britain has expressed support for Ibadi’s nomination and Vice President Joe Biden called Massoum to express U.S. support and commend him on the nomination.

The American move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State group’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

On Sunday, Kurdish peshemerga fighters retook two towns from the militants- Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Irbil.

The successes, however, were balanced out by news of a defeat in eastern Diyala province where Kurdish forces were driven out of the town of Jalula after fierce fighting against Sunni militants.

The militants blasted their way into the town at midnight using a truck bomb followed up with several suicide bombers on foot, said a police officer and a army official, adding that at least 14 Kurdish fighters were killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The journalists’ rights group Reporters Without Borders said Monday that a Turkish journalist – Leyla Yildizhan, who is Kurdish and uses the pseudonym Deniz Firat – was killed by a mortar Friday in fighting between peshmerga and militants.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party rejected the nominee, Haider al-Ibadi, as al-Maliki deployed elite security forces loyal to him in the streets of Baghdad to close two main avenues and hundreds of his supporters held a rally, raising fears that he may use force to stay in power.

The mounting political showdown comes as the United States beefed up its role in fighting back Sunni Muslim radicals whose dramatic expansion is threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State group.

U.S. warplanes carried out new strikes Monday, hitting a militant convoy moving to attack Kurdish forces defending the autonomous zone’s capital, Irbil. American strikes in recent days helped bring one of the Kurds first victories after weeks of retreat as peshmerga fighters over the weekend recaptured two towns near Irbil.

But the political wrangling in Baghdad adds new instability as the country tries to deal with the Islamic State group, which has overrun much of the north and west.

Al-Maliki has been insisting for weeks that he has the right to stay as prime minister, even as many of his fellow Shiites push for his replacement, accusing him of monopolizing power. Other criticis accuse al-Maliki of pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite political agenda that has helped fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Al-Ibadi was nominated for the prime minister’s post Monday by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc. Then in a televised address, President Fouad Massoum officially picked al-Ibadi to form a new government, giving him 30 days to do so and present it to parliament for approval.

Hours earlier, al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Al-Maliki’s Dawa party issued a televised statement rejecting the new nominee, saying he did not have the support of the party.

“Al-Ibadi represents only himself,” said party spokesman Khalaf Abdul-Samad surrounded by stone-faced party members, including al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki’s backers in the streets waved posters of the incumbent, singing and dancing and chanting, “We are with you, al-Maliki.”

Al-Ibadi is a British-educated lawmaker with a background in electrical engineering and a member of al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party. He has been closely involved in previous governments.

His nomination by the Shiite alliance brought into the open the long-simmering revolt among Shiite parties against al-Maliki, the Shiite politician who has been in the post for eight years.

The powerful Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement controls dozens of seats in parliament, expressed his support for al-Ibadi’s nomination, describing it as the “first sign” the country was headed back to safety.

“I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems,” he said in a statement.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Sadrist movement, cautioned the military, which includes units directly loyal to al-Maliki, not to intervene.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Britain has expressed support for Ibadi’s nomination and Vice President Joe Biden called Massoum to express U.S. support and commend him on the nomination.

The American move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State group’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

On Sunday, Kurdish peshemerga fighters retook two towns from the militants- Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Irbil.

The successes, however, were balanced out by news of a defeat in eastern Diyala province where Kurdish forces were driven out of the town of Jalula after fierce fighting against Sunni militants.

The militants blasted their way into the town at midnight using a truck bomb followed up with several suicide bombers on foot, said a police officer and a army official, adding that at least 14 Kurdish fighters were killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The journalists’ rights group Reporters Without Borders said Monday that a Turkish journalist – Leyla Yildizhan, who is Kurdish and uses the pseudonym Deniz Firat – was killed by a mortar Friday in fighting between peshmerga and militants.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi, who was selected by a coalition of Shiite political parties, 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.

The ceremony came hours after the embattled al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing the Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Al-Maliki’s Dawa party then issued a televised statement rejecting the new nominee, saying he did not have the support of the party.

“Al-Ibadi represents only himself,” said party spokesman Khalaf Abdul-Samad surrounded by stone-faced party members, including al-Maliki.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to “protect the Iraqi people,” was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes al-Maliki’s.

The powerful Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement controls dozens of seats in parliament, expressed his support for al-Ibadi’s nomination, describing it as the “first sign” the country was headed back to safety.

“I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems,” he said in a statement.

Al-Ibadi is a British-educated lawmaker with a background in electrical engineering and a member of al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party. He has been closely involved in previous governments.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, has contributed to the crisis facing the country by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi’s nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets – popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies – as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets, raising fears that he might use force to stay in power.

“We are with you, al-Maliki,” they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Sadrist movement, cautioned the military, which includes units directly loyal to al-Maliki, not to intervene.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Britain has expressed support for Ibadi’s nomination and Vice President Joe Biden called the Massoum to express the U.S. support and commend him on the nomination.

Also Monday, senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration, which launched airdrops and airstrikes last week to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling militants from the Islamic State group, has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces who have started to make gains against the al-Qaida breakaway group that controls much of the north.

U.S. airstrikes have reinvigorated Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State and on Sunday, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters retook two towns – Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the Kurdish capital of Irbil – from the Sunni militants in what was one of their first victories after weeks of retreat.

The successes, however, were balanced out by news of a defeat in the far eastern Diyala province where Kurdish forces were driven out of the town of Jalula after fierce fighting against Sunni militants.

The militants blasted their way into the town at midnight using a truck bomb followed up with several suicide bombers on foot, said a police officer and a army official, adding that at least 14 Kurdish fighters were killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

The U.S. also announced the deployment of a disaster response team to Iraq help distribute humanitarian aid to those forced from their homes in the fresh wave of violence in the country’s north.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi, who was selected by a coalition of Shiite political parties, 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.

The ceremony came hours after the embattled al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing the country’s Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Despite angrily insisting that he should be nominated for a third term, al-Maliki has lost some of his support with the main coalition of Shiite parties turning against him.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to “protect the Iraqi people,” was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that of which al-Maliki’s State of Law is a part.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, contributed to the crisis facing the country by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi’s nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets – popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies – as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets, raising fears that he might use force to stay in power.

“We are with you, al-Maliki,” they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing.

Mohammed al-Ogeili, a lawmaker from al-Maliki’s list, rejected the nomination of al-Ibadi arguing that this move “runs against the constitution” because al-Maliki’s party is the largest bloc and the National Alliance has no right to present any candidate.

“This decision would lead the country to a big problem and the president bears full responsibility for this situation,” he told The Associated Press.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Shiite Sadrist movement, however, countered that with 180 seats, the alliance could nominate its own candidates and the institutions of the state should respect their choice.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint.

“What we urge the people of Iraq to do is to be calm,” Kerry said. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Also Monday, senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration, which launched airdrops and airstrikes last week to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling militants from the Islamic State group, has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces who have started to make gains against the al-Qaida breakaway group that controls much of the north.

U.S. airstrikes have reinvigorated Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State and on Sunday, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters retook two towns – Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the Kurdish capital of Irbil – from the Sunni militants in what was one of their first victories after weeks of retreat.

The move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and “is going to be a long-term project.”

Obama said Iraqi security forces need to revamp to effectively mount an offensive, which requires a government in Baghdad that the Iraqi military and people have confidence in. He said Iraq needs a prime minister – an indication suggesting he’s written off the legitimacy of the incumbent, al-Maliki.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi, who was selected by a coalition of Shiite political parties, 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.

The ceremony came hours after the embattled al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing the country’s Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

Despite angrily insisting that he should be nominated for a third term, al-Maliki has lost some of his support with the main coalition of Shiite parties turning against him.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to “protect the Iraqi people,” was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that of which al-Maliki’s State of Law is a part.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, contributed to the crisis facing the country by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi’s nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets – popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies – as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets, raising fears that he might use force to stay in power.

“We are with you, al-Maliki,” they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing.

Mohammed al-Ogeili, a lawmaker from al-Maliki’s list, rejected the nomination of al-Ibadi arguing that this move “runs against the constitution” because al-Maliki’s party is the largest bloc and the National Alliance has no right to present any candidate.

“This decision would lead the country to a big problem and the president bears full responsibility for this situation,” he told The Associated Press.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Shiite Sadrist movement, however, countered that with 180 seats, the alliance could nominate its own candidates and the institutions of the state should respect their choice.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint.

“What we urge the people of Iraq to do is to be calm,” Kerry said. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Also Monday, senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration, which launched airdrops and airstrikes last week to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling militants from the Islamic State group, has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces who have started to make gains against the al-Qaida breakaway group that controls much of the north.

U.S. airstrikes have reinvigorated Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State and on Sunday, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters retook two towns – Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the Kurdish capital of Irbil – from the Sunni militants in what was one of their first victories after weeks of retreat.

The move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

President Barack Obama warned Americans on Saturday that the new campaign to bring security in Iraq requires military and political changes and “is going to be a long-term project.”

Obama said Iraqi security forces need to revamp to effectively mount an offensive, which requires a government in Baghdad that the Iraqi military and people have confidence in. He said Iraq needs a prime minister – an indication suggesting he’s written off the legitimacy of the incumbent, al-Maliki.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

—-

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval, expressing his hope he would succeed.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to “protect the Iraqi people,” was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that al-Maliki’s State of Law is part of, but has turned against him.

Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated bloc won the most parliament seats in April elections and the prime minister sees himself as rightfully keeping the post. In a midnight speech, al-Maliki said he was filing a suit against the president for neglecting to name him prime minister by Sunday’s deadline and all but demanded he be renominated.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, contributed to the crisis by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi’s nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets – popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies – as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets.

“We are with you, al-Maliki,” they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing.

Mohammed al-Ogeili, a lawmaker from al-Maliki’s list, rejected the nomination of al-Ibadi arguing that this move “runs against the constitution” because al-Maliki’s party is the largest bloc and the National Alliance has no right to present any candidate.

“This decision would lead the country to a big problem and the president bears full responsibility for this situation,” he told The Associated Press.

Also Monday, senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration, which launched airdrops and airstrikes last week to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling militants from the Islamic State group, has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces who have started to make gains against the al-Qaida breakaway group.