BAGHDAD — Rebuffing a plea by the Obama administration, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki signaled Wednesday that he’s ready to gradually drop his key partner party, the largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc, and move toward a government run by the country’s Shiite majority at the expense of minority Sunnis and Kurds.
At a news conference where he repeatedly emphasized his own powers under the Iraqi constitution and berated his coalition partners, Maliki seemed unconcerned if some Iraqiya members quit the broad coalition, and he spoke at length about the options available to him if they did.
Maliki all but ignored Vice President Joe Biden’s expression of U.S. support for an “inclusive partnership government,” referring to the broad coalition between Maliki’s State of Law bloc and Iraqiya, headed by veteran politician Ayad Allawi.
Biden telephoned Maliki on Tuesday in the midst of a political crisis that erupted over allegations that bodyguards in the employ of Maliki’s Sunni vice president, Tareq al Hashemi, had been running assassination squads against public figures.
Maliki also seemed to brush aside Biden’s emphasis in the phone call on “the importance of acting in a manner consistent with the rule of law and Iraq’s constitution.”