WORLD / Middle East

Iraq's PM Jaafari rejects calls to step aside
Updated: 2006-04-05 10:17

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has rejected growing pressure on him to resign, saying Iraqis must be left to choose their leader democratically.

Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (R) meets top Iraqi army officers in the heavily fortified Green Zone area in Baghdad, Iraq April 4, 2006. [Reuters]

In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, Jaafari brushed aside calls from opponents and some political allies to step aside to break a political deadlock.

Although Jaafari has been nominated as Iraq's next prime minister, his appointment has yet to be confirmed.

Jaafari's critics and some allies have called for him to step aside, saying the Shi'ite leader cannot bring the needed unity and security.

"There is a decision that was reached by a democratic mechanism and I stand with it," he told the newspaper. "We have to protect democracy in Iraq and it is democracy which should decide who leads Iraq."

The United States and Britain have said that Iraq's failure to appoint a new government four months after elections is undermining security.

On a visit to Baghdad at the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi people were "losing patience" with the delay on forming a new government.

Jaafari said no consensus had been reached during talks with Rice and her British counterpart, Jack Straw.

"I heard their points of view even though I disagree with them," he told the Guardian. "People will react if they see the rules of democracy being disobeyed.

"Every politician and every friend of Iraq should not want people to be frustrated."

Talks over forming a new government after parliamentary elections in December have stalled on the uncertainty over Jaafari's future.

Jaafari, who won his alliance's nomination to keep the top job in a vote in February, has previously condemned U.S. "interference" in Iraq's new democracy.