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News Wrap: Iraq’s president taps Abadi to replace Maliki as prime minister

August 11, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: A political storm is breaking in Baghdad. Efforts to form a government ran into strong opposition today from the sitting prime minister. That, in turn, prompted new warnings from Washington. It all follows an announcement that raised hopes for change.

After months of political deadlock in Iraq, a potential breakthrough today. The new president, Fuad Masum, a Kurd, tapped Deputy Parliament Speaker Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, to form a government and become prime minister.

Abadi, who belongs to the same party as current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, quickly called for unity against a Sunni insurgency led by the Islamic State group.

HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister – Designate, Iraq (through interpreter): I have confidence that, with the people and political blocs, we would be able to overcome this barbaric and savage attack on the Iraqi people and provide a good environment for the Iraqi people to live in.

GWEN IFILL: But Maliki has spurned calls from the U.S. and other Shiites to step aside in favor of a less polarizing figure. Today, he deployed loyal security forces across Baghdad. And he insisted he is the only legal choice for prime minister because his party won a plurality in the April election.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): We assure Iraqi people and the political groups that there is no importance or value to this nomination because it runs against constitutional procedures. We will not accept this violation of the constitution.

GWEN IFILL: Vice President Biden and President Obama, interrupting his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, both called Abadi to congratulate him and called for a political solution.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve.

The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people.

GWEN IFILL: The political turmoil came amid a new American effort to stem the Islamic State’s surge in Northern Iraq. Senior U.S. officials said today the Obama administration, in concert with the central Baghdad government, is now directly providing weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who retook two towns near Irbil on Sunday.

Meanwhile, U.S. airstrikes continued through the weekend. Speaking at the Pentagon today, Lieutenant General William Mayville cautioned the campaign, so far, is limited.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM MAYVILLE, Operations Director, Joint Chiefs of Staff: Look, I think in the immediate areas where we have focused our strengths, we have had a very temporary effect. And so I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat.

GWEN IFILL: The administration also announced it’s sending a disaster response team to Iraq to distribute humanitarian aid. Much of it will go to thousands of Yazidis, who’ve fled to the top of Sinjar Mountain to escape the militants.

Already, the U.S. and Britain have airdropped thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of meals to the refugees.

We will have more news and analysis on the situation in Iraq right after the news summary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks in Egypt today, as a new 72-hour cease-fire began. At the same time, Israel called for an international effort to provide relief to Gaza. It would be conditioned on the Palestinian Authority resuming control of Gaza, something Hamas is likely to reject.

GWEN IFILL: Turkey’s president-elect, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began working today on the next phase of consolidating power. On Sunday, the three-term prime minister won Turkey’s first direct presidential election. Now he needs a stronger majority in parliament to convert the presidency from a ceremonial post.

Last night, in a victory speech, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone toward his critics.

PRESIDENT-ELECT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): Brothers, I say this from the heart. Let’s start a new social reconciliation period today, and let’s leave the old discussions in the old Turkey. Let’s leave tensions, culture of clashes and virtual problems in old Turkey.

GWEN IFILL: Erdogan’s critics have charged he’s becoming increasingly autocratic and transformed Turkey from a secular to an increasingly religious state.

JUDY WOODRUFF:
The Russian government announced today that it’s sending a humanitarian aid convoy into Ukraine. The convoy would travel in cooperation with the International Red Cross. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced he’s agreed to the plan, after speaking with President Obama.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that there’s a high probability that the Russians actually plan military action.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, Secretary-General, NATO: We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation, under the guise of a humanitarian operation. And we see a military buildup that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ukrainian officials claimed that Russia has amassed even more troops on the border, some 45,000. Meanwhile, rockets slammed into a high-security prison in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, letting more than 100 prisoners escape. At the same time, Ukraine’s military declared it’s in the final stages of retaking the city.

GWEN IFILL: Amnesty International is charging the U.S. military has not pursued troops who tortured or killed civilians in Afghanistan. The group reported that finding today based on data from 2009 to 2013.

It concluded — quote — “In numerous cases in which there is credible evidence of unlawful killings of civilians, the military has failed to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations.”

The Pentagon denied ignoring civilian casualties.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nigeria now has 10 confirmed cases of Ebola. The announcement today said two patients have died. All had been in contact with a Liberian who brought the virus in on a plane in late July. Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, three missionaries have returned from West Africa after working with Ebola patients. They’re healthy, but will stay quarantined for at least three weeks as a precaution.

GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 16 points to close just short of 16,570; the Nasdaq rose 30 points to close at 4,401; and the S&P 500 added five to finish near 1,937.