Baghdad: Iraq's former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Tuesday denied he is seeking a political comeback, despite frequent appearances in local media and a recent visit to the country's influential neighbor Iran.
Al-Maliki, who stepped aside last year after being widely blamed for the Islamic State group's takeover of a third of Iraq said he has no intention of returning to the office he held for eight years unless the people desire it.
"If the Iraqi people decide to elect me...I won't decline," he said.
"I was not willing to be (prime minister) but when the job was imposed upon me I stepped up to the call," added al-Maliki, who now holds the largely ceremonial post of vice president along with two other officials.
"But if asked personally whether I am aiming to (become prime minister) no. I am not," he said.
His decision to step down as prime minister in August raised hopes for a new government that could roll back the Sunni insurgents and prevent the country from splitting apart.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, was widely accused of pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the Sunni Muslim and Kurdish minorities.
He was also blamed for the corruption and incompetence that seeped into Iraq's US-trained and equipped armed forces, after he replaced top Sunni commanders with his own loyalists.
The rot was brutally exposed when entire units collapsed in the face of last year's militant advance, with commanders abandoning their posts and soldiers stripping off their uniforms as they fled.
The current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, recently purged a number of senior officials appointed by his predecessor from the military and interior ministry.
But in a string of recent TV appearances al-Maliki has instead blamed the country's turmoil on the current government, saying it has failed to bring about reconciliation.
Al-Maliki told the AP that the army was weakened by the same sectarian divisions playing out across the country.
"There is corruption in Iraq, in the region, even in America it exists. The real problem in the Iraqi military is that the soldiers are instigated and divided along sectarian lines," he said.
"Corruption no," he continued, "It's an issue but it's definitely not the issue that is preventing the Iraqi military from succeeding in its fight against Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.