CAIRO (AFP,REUTERS) - Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi denounced on Monday "crimes against humanity" committed by jihadists in Iraq against the minority Yazidi sect, demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice.
Iraqi politicians have warned of the dire plight of Yazidis stranded high up a mountain after Islamic State militants overran their lands.
The jihadists' advances in northern Iraq have also prompted an exodus of Christians.
Arabi "strongly denounced the crimes, killings, dispossession carried out by the terrorist (IS) against civilians and minorities in Iraq that have affected Christians in Mosul and Yazidis," he said in a statement.
Referring to reports of hundreds of Yazidis killed in the jihadist onslaught, Arabi said "these terrorist crimes amount to crimes against humanity that cannot be overlooked." "The perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to international justice," the statement said.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was battling to keep his job on Monday, deploying forces across the capital as some parliamentary allies sought a replacement and the United States warned him not to obstruct efforts to form a new government.
Widely accused of a partisan obstinacy that has fuelled the communal violence tearing
Iraq apart, the Shi'ite Muslim premier went on television late on Sunday to denounce the ethnic Kurdish president for delaying the constitutional process of naming a prime minister following a parliamentary election in late April.
However, President Fouad Masoum won a rapid endorsement from Washington. With Sunni fighters from the Islamic State making new gains over Kurdish forces north of Baghdad, the United States renewed its call for Iraqis to form a consensus government to try and end bloodshed that has prompted the first US air strikes since the U.S. occupation ended in 2011.
And in pointed remarks aimed at Maliki, Secretary of State John Kerry said: "The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters. "There will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitution process that is in place and being worked on now."
Complicating efforts to propose a replacement from among fellow Shi'ites, who appear to have some support from both the country's leading cleric and from the Shi'ite establishment of neighbouring Iran, the country's highest court ruled that Maliki's State of Law bloc is the biggest in the new parliament.
That, a senior Iraqi official said, was "very problematic"for attempts to have President Masoud offer the premiership to an alternative candidate to Maliki - an alternative that one senior member of his party said had been close to being chosen.
As Shi'ite militias and security forces personally loyal to Maliki deployed across the capital, the prime minister made a defiant late-night address saying he would pursue Masoum in court for violating the constitution by missing a deadline to ask the leader of the biggest party to form a new government.
However, the deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi from Maliki's own Dawa party, tweeted that the broader State of Law bloc was close to nominating a new premier. Abadi has himself been cited as a possible alternative.