Washington: US Vice President Joe Biden congratulated violence-plagued Iraq for electing a new parliamentary speaker Tuesday, a move Washington called an important first step in forming a government after extensive delays.
MPs in Iraq`s fractious legislature elected Salim al-Juburi parliament speaker, a post traditionally held by a Sunni Arab that must be filled before the process of forming a government can proceed.
Iraqi MPs have been under increasing international pressure to put aside their differences and work to counter a major onslaught by the jihadist-led Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that has seized considerable territory north and west of Baghdad.
Biden called Juburi and the pair "agreed on the importance of acting quickly, consistent with constitutional timelines, to form a new government capable of uniting Iraqi communities in the fight against ISIL," the White House said.
Biden made it clear that Washington was ready to work closely with the new speaker.
Secretary of State John Kerry also applauded Juburi`s election, calling it "the first step in the critical process of forming a new government" representative of all Iraqis.
Worsening political discord in Iraq has seen ties between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite Arab who insists on running for a third term, and Iraq`s Kurds plunge to new lows, dimming the prospects for a unified front against the jihadists.
But the stakes for Iraq`s future "could not be clearer," Kerry said.
"Much depends on the ability of Iraq`s leaders to come together and take a united stand against ISIL," he added.
"As they do, the United States will remain a steadfast partner in support of their fight for the democratic process and against ISIL."