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Pompeo says Iraqi leaders must drop sectarian quota to help form new government

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi leaders need to put aside a sectarian quota system and make compromises to help the formation of a government as well help the relationship between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Iraq’s president named intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi as prime minister-designate, the third person tapped to lead Iraq within 10 weeks as it struggles to replace a government that fell last year after months of deadly protests.

Speaking at a news conference at the State Department, Pompeo said the United States was watching closely as Kadhimi entered the third week of trying to form his government.

“Iraqi leaders must put aside the sectarian quota system and make compromises that lead to government formation for the good of the Iraqi people, and for the partnership between the United States and Iraq,” Pompeo said.

“The Iraqi government, too, must heed the call from many elements of Iraqi society to bring all armed groups under state control, and we welcome steps that have been taken in the past days in that direction,” Pompeo said.

Ties between Washington and Baghdad have been strained as the United States said it was disappointed that Iraqi forces have failed to protect the U.S. forces stationed in Iraq. They have come under multiple rocket attacks this year alone, for which the United States blames the Iran-backed militia.

In March, David Schenker, the State Department’s top diplomat for the Middle East, said Washington was “enormously disappointed” with the performance of the Iraqi government in fulfilling its obligations to protect U.S.-led coalition forces and that the issue remained a point of contention.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler