Iraqi PM Nouri Al-Maliki Rules Out Second Term in Newspaper Interview

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.

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"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."

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