Middle East

Iran backs Maliki but prepared for change

Maliki vowed last week to "never give up on" his quest for a third term, despite critics blaming him for steering the Shiite-majority country toward all-out sectarian war. (AFP/POOL/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

TEHRAN: Iran said Sunday that it supported Nouri al-Maliki's bid to stay on as Iraq's premier, but that it was ready to back any other candidate chosen by the Iraqi parliament.

Maliki's "State of Law coalition won first place in the last legislative elections ... (and) any decision that is taken in Iraq and has the support of parliament has Iran's backing," Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.

"If Mr Maliki is chosen as prime minister, we will work hard together. If another person is chosen by parliament, the Islamic Republic of Iran will also support them. It's an internal affair for Iraq," he said.

The Iraqi parliament is to convene Tuesday to elect a speaker, president and prime minister.

Maliki, a Shiite, has been prime minister since 2006 and last week vowed to "never give up on" his quest for a third term, despite critics blaming him for steering the Shiite-majority country toward all-out sectarian war.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants overran large chunks of Iraqi territory last month and have declared their own caliphate.

The militant offensive, which led Iraqi troops to abandon their posts, has emboldened Kurdish leaders to press for independence of their autonomous northern region.

Shiite-dominated Iran has said it is willing to provide Iraq advice and military assistance in the fight with the Sunni insurgents. Tehran opposes a breakup of Iraq, denouncing it as an Israeli plot.

"We will never allow (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's dreams about the disintegration of Iraq and the region to come true," Amir-Abdollahian said Sunday.

He added that Iran had warned Iraq's Kurdish leaders against separatism, saying it was "in nobody's interest."

Amir-Abdollahian also criticized the United States for doing "nothing concrete to fight against terrorism."

"At best, the behavior of the United States over the past three weeks regarding Iraq has been suspect. We see no need to cooperate or have talks with the United States about Iraq," he said.

In addition, he said the "role of Saudi Arabia in the events of the region, including Syria and Iraq, is not positive."





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