World Bulletin/News Desk
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition should withdraw its support for his third term bid and pick another candidate, urged Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, amid parliamentary deadlock over the formation of a new government.
Maliki has come under mounting pressure since Islamic State militants rampaged through the north and west of the country last month.
In a statement published on his website late on Saturday, Sadr said Maliki "has involved himself and us in long security quarrels and big political crises" and suggested that preventing Maliki from serving a third term would be a "welcome step".
"It is necessary to demonstrate the national and paternal spirit by aiming for a higher, wider goal from individuals and blocs and by that I mean changing the candidates," said Sadr, who gained political influence during the U.S. occupation.
The radical cleric and his political allies had previously advocated the next prime minister be chosen from outside of Maliki's State of Law coalition.
"I remain convinced that the brothers in the State of Law coalition must present the candidate for prime minister ... because it is the biggest bloc within the National Alliance," said Sadr.
"We are fine with any State of Law candidate as long as he is not Maliki," he told Reuters.
As Shi'ite lawmakers sought a way to end the political deadlock, a video was posted online of the man purporting to be the leader of the Islamic State praying at a mosque in Mosul, one of the cities the group seized last month.
Maliki's opponents blame his divisive rule for fuelling the political crisis and want him to step aside. However, he refused on Friday to give up his quest for a third term in power.
The first meeting of Iraqi parliament since its election in April collapsed last week without agreement. Kurds and Sunnis walked out, complaining Shi'ite lawmakers had not yet determined who they would put forward as premier.
"There is a wish by all political blocs except the State of Law ... (for) the change," said Ali Shubber, a leading member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a Shi'ite party that came second to Maliki's State of Law in the April elections.
"We feel that the change must take place in order to change the political equation."