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Ex-Iraqi leader says it's time for al-Maliki to go

From Arwa Damon, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "It is only fair to our people" that the current Iraqi PM step down, rival says
  • Allawi and al-Maliki are jockeying to lead a new Iraqi government
  • Al-Maliki's coalition partners should press him to quit, Allawi says
  • The impasse has lasted since Iraq's parliamentary vote in March

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki needs to abandon his bid for a new term "for the sake of democracy" and jump-start the stalled process of forming a new government, his leading rival said Sunday.

"I think he should acknowledge also that the transformation, the transfer of power, is very important in this country -- the peaceful transfer of power," former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told CNN. He added, "It is only fair for our people to stick to the procedures of the elections and the results of the elections."

Allawi served as head of Iraq's interim government following the 2003 invasion that toppled longtime strongman Saddam Hussein. The mostly secular coalition he led in the March 7 parliamentary elections won two more seats than al-Maliki's Shiite Muslim-dominated State of Law coalition, but neither slate won a big enough share of the 325-seat Council of Representatives to form a new government.

The result has been more than four months of jockeying for power between the two men and their supporters, with al-Maliki attempting to stay atop an alliance of Shiite parties and win a new mandate. Allawi predicted the impasse will last through August, perhaps as late as October, leaving Iraq unable to deal effectively with major issues such as security after the ongoing U.S. withdrawal.

"I think we Iraqis need to make the point, but also there should be some messages going to Mr. Maliki that the peaceful transfer of power is very important in this country, for the sake of democracy and for democracy to win over ultimately," Allawi said, referring to the leaders of the other parties in the prime minister's coalition.

Al-Maliki's representatives had no immediate response to Allawi's remarks.

The stalemate comes at a critical period for Iraq, where the United States is in the process of drawing down its seven-year-old presence to a non-combat force of 50,000. And though accustomed to the slow pace of their politicians, Iraqis are increasingly weary of a way of life governed by a lack of basic services and security.