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 Iraqi president says PM critics didn't muster majority

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Iraqi president says PM critics didn't muster majority  11.6.2012  








Iraqi president (L) talks to Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during one of several planned ceremonies to mark the end of U.S. military presence in Iraq at Baghdad, December 1, 2011 Photo: Reuters
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June 11, 2012

BAGHDAD, — Opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have failed to muster enough support to bring him down in a vote of no confidence, Iraq's president said in a statement posted on his website Sunday.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, faces a growing challenge from Sunni and Kurdish parties as well as other Shiites within his unity government who accuse him of monopolizing power.

But al-Maliki also has allies such as President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, whose office must affirm that a petition for a no confidence vote has enough signatures. Talabani's refusal to ratify the no confidence campaign's letter is a setback for al-Maliki's opponents, although the constitution gives them other ways of trying for the vote.

Talabani has close ties to Iran, which has been using its leverage in Iraq to keep al-Maliki in place. Divisions among the prime minister's opponents may also be undercutting the no confidence push.

The failure to obtain a no confidence vote averts an immediate political blowup, but perpetuates the sectarian-based deadlock that has been paralyzing the country.

Last week, the prime minister's opponents said they sent a letter to Talabani with pledges from 176 lawmakers in the 325-member parliament , or a dozen more than the 164 needed,www.ekurd.net that they would vote for the prime minister's recall.

However, Talabani said Sunday that the letter only has 160 valid signatures. He said 13 lawmakers informed him that they are withdrawing or suspending their signatures. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between the 176 signatures cited by al-Maliki's opponents and the total of 173 referred to by Talabani.

The president has urged al-Maliki and his coalition partners to try to iron out their differences.

He said Sunday that he plans to leave for medical treatment in Europe next week, further distancing himself from those trying to unseat al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki's disgruntled coalition partners, including representatives of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya movement, Kurdish parties and supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were meeting Sunday in the autonomous Kurdistan region to discuss their next move.

The current standoff, which has dragged on since inconclusive March 2010 elections, is holding back attempts to rebuild the country after eight years of U.S. occupation.

Sunnis accuse al-Maliki of targeting their leaders in politically motivated prosecutions, Kurds believe his government is hostile to their regional autonomy, and many Shiites feel he cuts them out of decision-making.

But his government has also won allies through dispensing patronage, and others think he has provided at least some stability after years of sectarian conflict. Iran is also believed to view him as perhaps the only viable Iraqi national leader at this point, a view that Washington is said to share, according to Iraqi politicians.

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