Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, attends the first session of parliament in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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Militants may have overrun large swathes of Iraq and he might face eroding domestic and international backing, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains many Iraqis' top choice to lead the country.A June 13 statement by the country's most senior Shiite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, calling on Iraqis to join state forces battling jihadists, has helped rally Iraq's majority Shiites around Maliki and bolstered his image as a bulwark against a perceived Sunni takeover.Some Iraqis are also loathe to see the prime minister go at such a critical time, with many not blaming him for Iraq's misfortunes in any case.Maliki last year reached out to Sunni Arabs, for example, with a pledge to relax a law that had barred former members of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public life, but other Shiite lawmakers blocked the move.Sunni Arabs and Kurd minorities accuse him of sidelining and persecuting them, and of being beholden to powerful Shiite neighbour Iran.
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