The United States said it “fully supports” Iraq’s new president, just hours after embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused him of violating the constitution.
The State Department responded Sunday after al-Maliki accused Fouad Massoum, who was named president last month, of neglecting to name a prime minister from the country’s largest parliamentary faction by Sunday’s deadline. He said Massoum has violated the constitution “for the sake of political goals.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. rejects any effort to use coercion or manipulation in the process of choosing a new Iraqi leader. She said the U.S. supports the process to select a prime minister “by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner.”
Al-Maliki’s surprise speech late Sunday plunged the government into a political crisis at a time it is battling advances by Islamic State militants. It was his first speech on Iraqi TV since U.S. forces launched airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in Iraq last week.
Al-Maliki is seeking a third term as prime minister, but the latest crisis has prompted even his closest allies to call for his resignation. A parliament session scheduled for Monday to discuss the election and who might lead the next Iraqi government was postponed until Aug. 19.
U.S. officials said the dispute between al-Maliki and Massoum centers on the specifics of the deadline for nominees to replace the prime minister. While al-Maliki believes the deadline was Sunday, other Iraqi leaders believe the deadline is Monday afternoon.
The officials said the U.S. believes there is flexibility for the deadline to extend into Monday.
Al-Maliki’s speech sparked rumors in Iraq that tanks were surrounding the presidential palace in Baghdad and that political rivals were in danger. The U.S. officials said the Obama administration had no confirmation of such developments, but said there was an increased security presence in Baghdad.
Officials said Iraq’s Shiite leaders did appear to be coalescing around a nominee to replace al-Maliki and may be able to take that step Monday. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation in Iraq by name.
President Barack Obama last week approved limited airstrikes against Islamic State fighters, whose rapid rise in June plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since the end of 2011, when U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of an unpopular eight-year war. Obama said the current military campaign would be a “long-term project” to protect civilians from the deadly and brutal insurgents.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday the militants threaten not just Iraqis but also Americans. He said continued…