Iraq's Maliki steps down, backs rival for PM

Iraq's Maliki steps down, backs rival for PM

The decision by embattled Nouri al-Maliki to step down as Iraq’s prime minister revived hopes on Friday for the formation of a new government that could take on a growing insurgency by Sunni militants that has engulfed much of the country.

The move, which followed weeks of international and domestic pressure, defuses a political deadlock that has plunged Iraq into uncertainty at a time of the nation’s greatest turmoil since the 2011 withdrawal of the US troops.

Al-Maliki announced he was giving up his post on national television late on Thursday, standing alongside senior members of his Shiite Islamic Dawa Party, including his rival and premier-designate Haider al-Abadi.

He said he was stepping aside in favour of his “brother”, in order to “facilitate the political process and government formation”.

Al-Abadi, a veteran Shiite lawmaker, now faces the immense challenge of attempting to unite Iraqi politicians as he tries to cobble together a Cabinet over the next 30 days.

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