US welcomes new Iraqi prime minister

President Barack Obama looks to government that 'can unite Iraq’s different communities'

President Barack Obama looks to government that 'can unite Iraq’s different communities'

WASHINGTON D.C. - The United States has welcomed the nomination of new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The selection of a new prime minister means the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki, who had refused U.S. overtures to form a unity government, no longer stands in the way of a government that represents all Iraq’s communities.

In a televised address on Monday, President Barack Obama said: “Last month the Iraqi people named a new president. Today President Masum named a new prime minister-designate, Dr Haider al Abadi."

“Under the Iraqi constitution this is an important step towards forming a new government that can unite Iraq’s different communities.”

Obama pledged U.S. support for Masum and Abadi, as well as Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al Jabouri, as they work to form a new government.  

He added: “We’re also ready to work with other countries in the region to deal with the humanitarian crises and counter-terrorism challenge in Iraq. Mobilizing that support will be easier once this new government is in place.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement: "The United States applauds President [Fuad] Masum’s fulfillment of his constitutional duties and urges the prime minister-designate to form a government that is representative of the Iraqi people and inclusive of Iraq’s religious and ethnic identities."

Vice-President Joe Biden telephoned Abadi on Monday to congratulate him, as well as calling Masum to commend him for nominating the new prime minister.

Maliki, who had been in office since 2006, was viewed by many as having formented the crisis in northern Iraq by alienating Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities with pro-Shiite sectarian policies.

He has objected to the nomination of a new prime minister and there have been concerns that Maliki supporters could attempt to undermine the process, particularly after forces loyal to the incumbent were mobilized to key sites in Baghdad on Sunday evening.

But deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: "We're watching the situation on the ground, but there has been no, in our view, discernable change in the security picture."

Meanwhile, the U.S. carried out further air strikes on Islamic State militants in northern Iraq on Monday. Fighter jets destroyed part of an IS convoy moving to attack Peshmerga forces defending Irbil.

The U.S. Air Force also conducted several humanitarian air drops in nearby mountains. Obama said the U.S. has deployed a USAID response team to help Iraqis stranded on Mount Sinjar.

“Some have begun to escape their perch on that mountain and we’re working with international partners to develop options to bring them to safety,” he said. “Our aircraft remain positioned to strike any terrorist forces around the mountain who threaten the safety of these families.”

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