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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 14:25 GMT
Iraq's PM longs to leave office
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki
Mr Maliki was not his alliance's first choice as prime minister
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has made clear he dislikes being the country's leader and would prefer to leave the job before his term ends.

In an extensive interview with a US newspaper, Mr Maliki said he would certainly not be seeking a second term.

A compromise choice, his tenure has been plagued by factional strife within both the country and government, and rumours the US has no faith in him.

"I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term," he said.

"I didn't want to take this position," he told the Wall Street Journal. "I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again."


Mr Maliki, a stalwart of the Shia movement which led the resistance to Saddam Hussein, was sworn in as prime minister for a four year term last May after Sunni and Kurd parties rejected the Shia alliance's first nominee.

It followed four months of political deadlock.

This was supposed to be a uniting event between Shia and Sunni, but instead it proved to be quite damaging
Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie
Iraqi National Security Adviser

He has since been undermined by sectarian tensions within his majority Shia alliance, as well as opposition from Sunni Arab politicians who say he has not done enough to dismantle Shia militias.

The manner in which Saddam Hussein was executed has also increased the pressure on Mr Maliki's government.

Correspondents say mobile phone footage showing the former Iraqi leader being taunted as he went to the gallows will make it very hard for Baghdad to convince Sunni Arabs that his execution was not just an act of retaliation against their community by Shias.

Iraq's National Security Adviser, Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, said the shouting was "unprofessional, disgusting and shouldn't have happened".

"This was supposed to be a uniting event between Shia and Sunni," Mr Rubaie told Sky TV, adding that Iraq's government would punish those found to be involved.

As protests continued against Saddam Hussein's execution, the Sunni Baath Party announced it had appointed his former deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as its new leader.

Amid the controversy, the US military spokesman in Iraq, Maj-Gen William Caldwell, said the execution would have been handled differently if the US had been involved.

He said US forces had handed "physical control" of Saddam Hussein to Iraqi officials shortly before the execution and all US personnel had left the prison.

Clashing with Washington

Mr Maliki has had a tense relationship with the US.

Late last year, the New York Times published a memo from the White House national security adviser which contained a withering analysis of his leadership.

Nouri Maliki and US President George W Bush
A leaked memo suggested the US had doubts in Mr Maliki
It described him as "a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so" although President George W Bush has subsequently stated that Mr Maliki has his full backing.

Mr Maliki has made his own impatience with Washington clear, accusing the US of failing to provide adequate equipment and training to Iraqi forces.

He repeated his criticism in the Wall Street Journal, saying US-led forces and the Iraqi army had been too slow in responding to the insurgency.

"This gives the terrorists a chance to hit and run," he said. "What is happening in Iraq is a war of gangs and a terrorist war. That is why it needs to be confronted with a strong force and with fast reaction."

In the interview, conducted a week before Saddam Hussein was executed, Mr Maliki told the paper he had faith that peace would eventually be restored to Iraq.

"I have a strong hope. If I didn't have hope, I wouldn't be here today."

Many groups are unhappy with Mr Maliki's leadership

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