Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki`s coalition should withdraw its support for his bid for a third term and pick another candidate, Shi`ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged, amid parliamentary deadlock over the formation of a new government.
Maliki has come under mounting pressure since Islamic State militants took swathes of the north and west of Iraq last month and declared a caliphate on land they and other Sunni armed groups have captured in Iraq and Syria.
In a statement published on his website late on Saturday, Sadr said Maliki "has involved himself and us in long security quarrels and big political crises" and suggested that preventing Maliki from serving a third term would be a "welcome step".
"It is necessary to demonstrate the national and paternal spirit by aiming for a higher, wider goal from individuals and blocs and by that I mean changing the candidates," said Sadr, who gained political influence during the US occupation.
The radical cleric and his political allies had previously advocated the next prime minister should be a Shi`ite chosen from outside of Maliki`s State of Law coalition.
"I remain convinced that the brothers in the State of Law coalition must present the candidate for prime minister ... because it is the biggest bloc within the National Alliance," Sadr said.
State of Law is part of the National Alliance, a bloc comprising the country`s biggest Shi`ite parties, including both Maliki`s list and his foes.
Dhiya al-Asadi, secretary general of the Al-Ahrar bloc, the Shi`ite political party loyal to Sadr, told Reuters: "We are fine with any State of Law candidate as long as he is not Maliki."
The United States, Iran, the United Nations and Iraq`s own Shi`ite clerics have called on Iraqi politicians to overcome their differences to face the insurgency.