WASHINGTON – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, tired of trying to stem the rise fo sectarian violence, revealed in a published report that he wishes he could quit and that he will not seek a second term.
When asked in a Wall Street Journal interview whether he would consider a second term, he responded: "Impossible."
"I wish it could be done with even before the end of this term. I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through the parliament, or through working directly with the people," Maliki told the Journal.
"I didn't want to take this position. I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again," he said.
Al-Maliki is in the midde of a four-year term that has been marked by bloody and intensifying sectarian violence between primarily Sunni and Shiite factions. The embattled Iraqi PM has walked a shaky tightrope between Bush Administration and powerful Shiite Clerics pushing for autonomy. In particular, Al-Maliki has of late been dealing with the radical cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.
Al-Maliki also has found himself at odds with U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, who he claims have been slow to react to mounting sectarian violence.
Al-Maliki's public concession that he would rather quit than finish his term comes as Bush is seeking a new strategy for the stabilization of Iraq. It also comes a month after an embarrassing leak of a White House memo questioning al-Maliki's ability to effectively govern.
Al-Maliki's interview with the Wall Street Journal took place on Dec. 24 as Bush was mulling increasing U.S. troop strength in and around Baghdad.
Maliki, a Shiite, was sworn in May as the head of a coalition of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, with hopes of averting a sectarian war three years after Saddam Hussein's ouster in a U.S.-led invasion. The violence has continued, but Maliki said it had not become a civil war.
His term is intended to be four years, but it could be cut short by a power shift in parliament.
Maliki also criticized U.S.-led multinational forces and the Iraqi army as being too slow to react to insurgents.
"What is happening in Iraq is a war of gangs and a terrorist war. That is why it needs to be confronted with strong force and with fast reaction," al-Maliki told the Journal.
Iraqi commanders need more authority over the counterinsurgency, he said. "The way the Iraqi army and the multinational forces operate now is very slow in taking a decision to react. This gives the terrorists a chance to hit and run."