Iraqi President Fuad Masum asked Haider al-Abadi Monday, the Shia coalition's nominee for prime minister, to form a government, a spokesman for the main Shiite coalition said.
Iraq's National Alliance parliamentary bloc chose al-Abadi as its nominee for prime minister in place of incumbent Maliki, sources in parliament told AFP Monday.
"The National Alliance has named Haidar al-Abadi as its candidate for prime minister," a lawmaker said. Several other sources in parliament confirmed the decision.
Iraq's president then formally asked al-Abadi, the coalition's nominee for prime minister.
The move, which comes after months of political wrangling, is likely to be resisted by Nouri al-Maliki, who has rejected calls to drop his bid for a third term as prime minister.
Iraq's highest court earlier issued a ruling suggesting Maliki's State of Law Shia bloc is the biggest in parliament and therefore was entitled to nominate a candidate for prime minister.
State television showed footage of the president shaking hands with Abadi and telling him, "I hope you will be successful in forming a broader-based government."
Educated at the University of Manchester, Abadi served as the head of parliament's finance committee, a political advisor to the prime minister and minister of communications.
A member of Maliki's political bloc said Monday "we will not stay silent" over the president's decision.
"The nomination is illegal and a breach of the constitution. We will go to the federal court to object to the nomination," Hussein al-Maliki, Maliki's son-in-law, told Reuters.
Maliki has indicated he would seek a third term as prime minister, rejecting calls by Sunnis, Kurds, fellow Shias to step aside for a less polarizing figure who can unite Iraqis against a raging insurgency.
U.S. diplomat congratulates nominee for PM
A senior U.S. diplomat with responsibility for Iraq Monday congratulated Haider al-Abadi on being tasked by Masoum to form a new government, according to AFP.
"The United States stands ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government," added Brett McGurk, who is U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday the formation of an Iraqi government was critical for stability.
The United States has carried out three consecutive days of air strikes over Iraq, stepping up assistance to Kurdish forces to counter the advance of Islamic militants in the north of the country.
"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," Kerry told reporters in Sydney ahead of annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).
"One thing all Iraqis need to know, that 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."
At a separate briefing in Sydney, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the air strikes "have been very effective from all of the reports we've received on the ground."
"We're constantly assessing where we can continue to assist the Iraqi security forces and where as we build partnerships “we will work with the Iraqi government,” Hagel said.
U.S. starts providing weapons to Kurds
Meanwhile, the U.S. has reportedly started direct arms supplies to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq to help them battle the Islamic State militants.
Previously the U.S. insisted on selling arms only to the Iraqi government, but that policy has changed now, senior U.S. officials told AP.
The officials would not disclose what kinds of weapons are being supplied or which agency is funneling them.
One official said it was not the Pentagon. Historically, the CIA has been involved in the clandestine arming of foreign fighters in various conflicts.
Iraqi Kurds, who are engaged in intensive fighting with militants from the Islamic State terrorists, have been complaining that they are under-armed compared to the radicals, who captured a lot of American weapons from the Iraqi army in a lightning offensive in June.
The Kurds earlier received arms deliveries from the Iraqi government, an unprecedented move for Baghdad, which in the past has been reluctant to further empower the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. The deliveries were facilitated by the U.S.
Washington also provides military support for the Kurds in the form of airstrikes delivered on IS positions.
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