US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the United States strongly supports Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Iraqi leader 'seems to be in a very strong position' despite anti-government protests.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Monday that he supports Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi despite political unrest in Iraq.
"He seems to be in a very strong position. Obviously we support him strongly because of what he stands for," Carter told reporters travelling with him shortly before landing in Germany.
The Iraqi government has been in deadlock for months as parties failed to reach a deal to reform the government, which is structured according to a strict administrative power sharing agreement.
The unrest kicked off minutes after cleric Moqtada al Sadr took part in a news conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf during which he condemned the political deadlock in the country.
The protesters, mostly followers of renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, stormed into Baghdad's Green Zone and broke into the Iraqi parliament building, responding to their leader's call to pressure the government to reform.
"Prime Minister Abadi stands for and has been a partner in all of the things that are important to Iraq's future, namely a country that holds together and doesn't just spiral off into sectarianism," Carter said.
Both Abadi and Sadr have called for the change, but powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds have opposed the move.
The parties have opposed efforts to replace some ministers - chosen to balance Iraq's divisions along party, ethnic and sectarian lines - with technocrats in a bid to combat corruption.
Corruption became a main issue after global oil prices collapsed two years ago, influencing the government's budget at a time when it needed additional income to fight against the DAESH terrorist group.
"That's why it's so important for the international community to help and support the Iraqi government at this time," Carter said.
DAESH terrorists have been retreating since December, when the Iraqi Army recaptured Ramadi, the largest city in the western region.
A US-led coalition has supported Iraqi forces in driving back the terrorist group.