WASHINGTON Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government should be voted out because it has failed to use the U.S. military buildup in that country to reach a political solution to end the war, a key U.S. lawmaker said on Monday.
"I hope that the Iraqi assembly, when it reconvenes in a few weeks, will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and a more unifying prime minister and government," said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
Levin and Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, just completed a two-day visit to Iraq.
The two senior lawmakers issued a joint statement saying that while the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq has given Iraqi politicians some breathing room, they have failed to make the compromises needed to bring peace to that war-torn nation.
"We are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises," the Levin and Warner said in their joint statement.
Levin in a teleconference with reporters went a step further, suggesting the Iraqi parliament have a vote of no confidence and replace the Maliki government, which he said is built too much upon sectarian allegiances and connections.
"There's a consensus that there is no military solution and there is only a political solution, and that's truer now than it has ever been, and the gridlock has got to end in that government if there's going to be a political solution," Levin said.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Iraqi leaders were currently meeting to try to reach a political settlement.
"We believe that Prime Minister Maliki and the Presidency Council will be able to get this important work done, work that is being done on the local level where we see bottom-up reconciliation taking hold," Johndroe said.
Levin said he and Warner met with Gen. David Petraeus, who is to make a report on progress in Iraq in September. The White House said on Monday, the general will likely testify to Congress around September 11 or September 12.
Johndroe said the hearing date was not related to the anniversary of the 2001 attacks. The September 15 deadline for the report falls on a Saturday, making it necessary to testify earlier in the week, he said.
The September progress report is seen in Washington as a pivotal milestone in assessing whether the Pentagon's so-called "surge" strategy has worked. That strategy has aimed to establish enough security to allow Iraqi politicians to move toward reconciliation.