A broad alliance seeking to unseat Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday failed to persuade the country's president to make a first move by calling a parliamentary no-confidence vote against the government, a lawmaker said.
Iraq's Shiite-dominated ruling coalition is increasingly shaky. One coalition member, the heavily Sunni Iraqiya movement, has long complained about being shut out of decision-making. Recently, two other groups Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had courted successfully _ Kurds and the hard-line Shiite followers of prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr _ have also threatened to defect.
On Wednesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani held a round of meetings with Kurdish, Sunni and Sadrist politicians in a resort in Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdistan region to hear their demands.
"They could not persuade the president to send a message to parliament to hold a vote of no-confidence," said Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman. He said Talabani prefers to convene talks among all coalition members to resolve their differences.
Talabani later issued a vague statement, saying he remained committed to the constitution.
Even if a no-confidence vote were held, it is not clear if al-Maliki's opponents could muster the needed absolute majority, or 163 of parliament's 325 members, to bring down the government.
Earlier Wednesday, two senior politicians said Iraq's powerful Shiite neighbor, Iran, has stepped up efforts to protect al-Maliki.
"There is some Iranian pressure on the president (Talabani) not to send the letter to parliament (requesting the no-confidence vote) and to support al-Maliki," said a lawmaker of al-Maliki's political bloc, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss sensitive political dealings with reporters.
Talabani is a Kurd but has close ties to Iran.
A senior Sadrist said al-Maliki is still seen by the movement as the best option, despite growing concerns that he is amassing power. Iran's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, recently sent a message to al-Sadr urging him to avoid splitting Iraq's Shiites, said the Sadrist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
"There is a problem because the downfall of al-Maliki would create rifts among Shiites," said the Sadrist politician.