WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States threw its weight behind Iraqi President Fuad Masum after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced on state television that he would be filing a complaint against Masum and as security forces massed in the capital.
"The United States fully supports President Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution," State Department spokesman Marie Harf said in a statement, echoing an earlier comment made on Twitter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk.
Maliki, who has been under huge pressure to give up his bid for a third term, announced his plans to file a complaint in a surprise address at midnight (2100 GMT Sunday). He alleged that newly elected Masum had violated the constitution twice, including failing to task a prime minister-designate with forming a new government.
Meanwhile, security sources on Monday said Iraqi police, army and counter-terrorism forces were deployed in unusually high numbers across strategic locations in Baghdad overnight. Many Iraqis see Maliki as partly responsible for the recent conflict in northern Iraq, for having institutionalised sectarianism.
Washington, Teheran, the Shiite religious leadership and much of Maliki's own party have pulled their support, but he has dug his heels in and apparently not yet given up on seeking a third term.
"We reaffirm our support for a process to select a prime minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner," Harf said. "We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process," she added.
"The United States stands ready to support a new and inclusive government, particularly in the fight" against the Iraqi militants, Harf said, referring to Sunni militants who have launched a powerful offensive in northern Iraq.
"We believe such a new and inclusive government is the best way to unify the country ... and to enlist the support of other countries in the region and international community."