Iraq president tasks Abadi with forming government

A file picture taken on November 22, 2009 shows Iraqi MP and Dawa party member Haidar al-Abadi in Baghdad. Iraqi President Fuad Masum on Monday tasked first deputy speaker of parliament Haidar al-Abadi with forming a government during a brief ce
A file picture taken on November 22, 2009 shows Iraqi MP and Dawa party member Haidar al-Abadi in Baghdad. Iraqi President Fuad Masum on Monday tasked first deputy speaker of parliament Haidar al-Abadi with forming a government during a brief ceremony broadcast live on television. -- PHOTO: AFP

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi President Fuad Masum on Monday tasked first deputy speaker of parliament Haidar al-Abadi with forming a government during a brief ceremony broadcast live on television.

"The country is now in your hands," Mr Masum told Mr Abadi, who moments earlier was selected as nominee for prime minister instead of incumbent Nuri al-Maliki by the Shi'ite National Alliance parliamentary bloc.

Mr Abadi was born in Baghdad in 1952 and holds a PhD from the University of Manchester.

Mr Masum is a Kurd and relations between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq have been strained of late.

Mr Maliki is accused by critics, even from his bloc, of steering the country towards all-out sectarian war. He has lost the support of nearly all his erstwhile allies: the United States, Iran, Shi'ite clerics and even even within his own Dawa party but the National Alliance, which State of Law is a part of, had so far failed to reach a deal on a candidate.

Meanwhile, Iraq's federal court issued a statement Monday indicating it did not rule on a complaint Mr Maliki said he would file in a bid to remain prime minister.

The court convened on Monday but its statement was a reply to Mr Masum in which it simply reiterated an earlier ruling on how the nominee for the post prime minister should be selected.

The 2010 decision is open to different interpretations by political rivals and its reissue on Monday was presented by state TV Iraqiya as a vindication of Mr Maliki's claim to being the rightful candidate.

The statement provided no evidence that it had even received Mr Maliki's complaint, let alone ruled that State of Law coalition was the largest parliamentary bloc and therefore entitled to nominate a prime minister.