Washington: The United States has welcomed the decision of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down in favour of his successor Haider al-Abadi and described it as "another major step forward in uniting" a country which threatens to be torn apart by a jihadist offensive and political infighting.
"Today, Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country. We commend Prime Minister Maliki for his decision to support Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi in his efforts to form a new government in line with the Iraqi constitution," the National Security Advisor Susan Rice said.
"We have heard from a wide range of leaders across the Iraqi political spectrum who have expressed their commitment to work with Dr Abadi to form a broad, inclusive government with an agenda that can address the needs and legitimate aspirations of the Iraqi people".
"In the last few days, we have also welcomed statements of support from all over the world for the new Prime Minister-designate," she said.
"These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people against the threat presented by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The United States remains committed to a strong partnership with Iraq and the Iraqi people," Rice said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also commended the decision by Maliki to support Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi in his efforts to form a new government and develop a national program in line with Iraq`s constitutional timeline.
"This milestone decision sets the stage for a historic and peaceful transition of power in Iraq," Kerry said.
"We urge Mr Abadi and all Iraqi leaders to move expeditiously to complete this process, which is essential to pulling the country together and consolidating the efforts of Iraq`s many diverse communities against the common threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," Kerry added.
Kerry and Rice were joined by several top American
lawmakers who welcomed al-Maliki`s decision to step down.
"I welcome the encouraging news today regarding Maliki`s decision to end legal challenges to the nomination of Dr Haydar al-Abadi to serve as Iraq`s next Prime Minister," said Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"This non-violent transfer of leadership is critical for Iraq`s democratic transition, and is a vital step toward addressing the security crisis in Iraq," he added.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Maliki`s decision to step down is necessary and positive.
"It is our hope that Iraq`s new national leaders will provide the inclusive governance and effective leadership against ISIS that we have long sought," they said.
"This should remove any reason for the Obama administration to delay any further in providing our full support to Iraqis and Syrians who are fighting ISIS forces wherever they are," they added.
Meanwhile, the US military continued with its attack against ISIL in northern Iraq. A mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft, successfully conducted airstrikes on two ISIL-armed vehicles and an ISIL-operated mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle northeast of Irbil.
The Pentagon said its military operation would continue.
"While the assessment has led us to conclude that an evacuation mission is far less likely, we are not taking our eye off the ball with respect to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby," said.
"We continue to assess the needs of the Yazidi people, as well as others who have been displaced in northern Iraq. We will conduct additional humanitarian airdrops if needed, and we appreciate the assistance of the British, the French, and other countries, as well as our inter agency partners, working with us to provide assistance to the Iraqi people," he added.
"The situation in Iraq remains dangerous and our efforts there are not over, he said. The (US) President has been clear about our limited military objectives in Iraq," Kirby said.