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Iraqi President Fuad Masum has asked the deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, to form a new government.

Haider al-Abadi had previously been nominated prime minister by Shia parties, instead of the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki.

However, Nouri al-Maliki’s allies rejected Haidr al-Abadi’s nomination, saying he had no legitimacy. Nouri al-Maliki has made it clear he wants to stand for a third term.

Meanwhile the jihadist insurgency in the north of Iraq continues to cause international concern.

Fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group have made substantial gains in northern Iraq in recent months, forcing tens of thousands of people from religious minorities to flee their homes.

The US has begun supplying weapons to the Kurdish Peshmergas who are fighting the militants, senior US officials have told the Associated Press.

Iraq’s deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, has been asked by President Fuad Masum to form a new government

Iraq’s deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, has been asked by President Fuad Masum to form a new government (photo Facebook)

Iraq’s security forces are also supporting the Kurdish fighters, and have already delivered three plane-loads of ammunition.

In Baghdad, Iraqi President Fuad Masum said in a TV address that he hoped Haider al-Abadi would succeed in forming a government that would “protect the Iraqi people”.

“The country is now in your hands,” Fuad Masum told Haider al-Abadi, according to the French news agency AFP.

Analysts say the announcement is a public snub for Nouri al-Maliki, whose State of Law coalition won the most seats in April’s elections.

Now he has lost support from some of his own Shias – with the Shia National Alliance reported to have given Haider al-Abadi 130 votes, compared with just 40 votes for Nouri al-Maliki.

Nouri al-Maliki has been prime minister since 2006, but even though his coalition won the elections in April, parliament has still not agreed to give him a third term. He has also lost the backing of the US.

His popularity has suffered from the growing Islamist insurgency in the north – and even before that his support from Sunnis and Kurds was dwindling.

The White House said Vice-President Joe Biden called President Fuad Masum to discuss the nomination of Haider al-Abadi, and promised US support for the formation of a new government.

Haider al-Abadi’s nomination was welcomed outside Iraq. The presidents of France and Turkey called for him to form a government of national unity, while the UN urged Iraqi militias to keep out of politics.

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