WORLD

Obama says Iraqi government must be more inclusive; Iraqi leader may be pushed to step down

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WASHINGTON (WJLA/AP) -- As the Iraqi government struggles to contain a Sunni insurgency, leaders in Baghdad and in Washington are questioning whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should remain in office.

President Barack Obama said it's going to be hard for the current Iraqi government to resolve the country's crisis unless the government is more inclusive.

Obama stopped short of calling for al-Maliki to resign. He said it's not the United States' job to choose Iraq's leaders.

But he added whoever is prime minister must make sure all sectarian groups feel they can advance their interest through the political process to ensure that the country doesn't descend into civil war.

According to a Shiite lawmaker, political leaders in Baghdad have been meeting behind closed doors in recent days to discuss al-Maliki's future.

The Sunnis, along with many of al-Maliki's former Kurdish and Shiite allies, are hoping to deny him a third term in office. They charge that he has excluded them from decision-making.

In recent days, he's been using conciliatory language toward Sunnis and Kurds -- saying the militant threat affects all Iraqis regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation. But he isn't known to have made any concrete offers to bridge differences with the Sunnis or with the Kurds -- who have been at loggerheads with the prime minister over their right to independently export oil from their self-rule region in the north.

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