Iraqi PM hangs tough with show of force
IRAQI Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deployed troops and tanks on the streets of Baghdad as he resisted a United States push for a more inclusive Iraqi government.
Iraqi soldiers, security forces and tanks poured into Baghdad on Sunday, many concentrated around the Green Zone, where government buildings and the US Embassy are located, eyewitnesses said.
Mr Maliki's show of force came after he defied efforts by lawmakers to pressure him to drop his bid for a third term.
Iraqi lawmakers said yesterday they were close to choosing an alternative candidate.
In pointed remarks aimed at Mr Maliki, US Secretary of State John Kerry said: "The government-formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr Maliki will not stir those waters."
Serving in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election on April 30, Mr Maliki has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi'ites, regional power broker Iran and Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric to step aside for a less polarising figure.
Critics accuse Mr Maliki of pursuing a sectarian agenda that has sidelined minority Sunni Muslims and prompted some of them to support Islamic State militants, whose latest sweep through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies, prompting US air strikes in recent days.
The US has conducted three days of attacks by jets and drones on jihadists in northern Iraq whose onslaught has displaced 200,000 people since Aug 3.
In authorising air strikes on Thursday, Mr Obama limited the air campaign to two purposes: protecting US personnel in northern Iraq and preventing the mass slaughter of civilians.
At a separate briefing in Sydney, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the air strikes "have been very effective, from all of the reports we've received on the ground".
AFP, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS