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Iraq PM bullish on govt but will not cling to job

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday he had enough support to build a coalition government after elections a day earlier, but insisted he would not cling to the job.

Maliki, seeking a third term following his country's first polls since US troops withdrew, faces significant opposition from within his own Shiite community, as well as from minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

He has been criticised over a marked deterioration in security as well as rampant corruption, high unemployment and what his rivals say has been insufficient improvement in basic services.

But with vote counting only just started and final results not expected for at least two weeks, he said "we have an ability to pass the 165 (seat threshold)" required to form a majority government.

"We have confidence that we will achieve a political majority," he added.

Following elections in 2005 and 2010, Iraqi leaders agreed to national unity governments that included all of the major parties and communal groups, but Maliki has vowed not to pursue such a track again.

"I am warning against going back to the (sectarian) quotas, and I will not be part of it," he said.

The premier insisted he was willing to give up the post if he was unable to form a government, saying: "My mother did not give birth to me as a minister or a prime minister."

"I am not interested in this subject (of being prime minister)," he said, before adding: "At the same time... if I were the choice, I would consider myself obliged to respond."

Maliki's bloc is tipped to win the most seats, but the consensus among analysts is that no single party will gain an outright majority. Consequently, Iraq's various political alliances and communal groups will have to form coalitions.

Complicating matters further is the fact that the three main positions of power -- the president, typically a Kurd, the prime minister, normally a Shiite, and the speaker of parliament, usually a Sunni Arab -- are often negotiated as an encompassing package.

Maliki's critics have accused him of concentrating power and marginalising the Sunni minority, and say public services have not sufficiently improved during his eight-year rule.

He contends that the violence is fuelled by the conflict in neighbouring Syria and has accused Sunni Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing insurgents.

Wednesday's election was hailed by the United Nations and the White House, with US President Barack Obama saying the vote demonstrated Iraq's embrace of democracy despite "enormous challenges".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140501/iraq-pm-bullish-govt-will-not-cling-job