Legislators from several parties told USA TODAY that al-Maliki lacks the support in parliament to push through laws, such as a plan to distribute oil revenues, that could reduce tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Iraq's parliament has failed to pass major legislation since a U.S.-led security plan began on Feb. 14.
"He is a weak prime minister," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator who supported al-Maliki until recently. "This government hasn't delivered and is not capable of doing the job. They should resign."
The loss of support came as Democrats agreed Monday on legislation that would force U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. President Bush, who said he would veto the bill, has argued that Iraq's government needs more time to calm sectarian violence.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Baghdad last week that the U.S. military commitment is not "open ended" and will be re-evaluated in late summer based in part on whether parliament has made progress. Al-Maliki seems unable to broker deals among the fractious alliance of Kurds and Shiites who supported his appointment last May, said Qasim Dawood, a member of al-Maliki's coalition.
"The present government is not competent," said Dawood, a Shiite legislator. "It's more or less paralyzed, inactive. I doubt very much that this government can continue in power much longer."
A political adviser to al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2010, said that the prime minister has no power to pass laws by himself. "We can only ask, push, the (parliament) to approve," Sadiq al-Rikabi said.
Al-Rikabi said there is no viable alternative to al-Maliki as prime minister. "Suppose he resigns," al-Rikabi said. "Then what is the solution?"
The Bush administration "has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Pending constitutional amendments on issues such as tax revenue sharing have stalled, said Ayad al-Samarrai, deputy chairman of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group. He said al-Maliki's poor reputation among Sunnis was partly to blame. "We don't see any progress" on sectarian reconciliation, al-Samarrai said.
Six Cabinet ministers loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric whose support was crucial in naming al-Maliki as prime minister, resigned this month.
"(Al-Maliki) must do something to make this government stronger," said Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to al-Sadr. "If not, this government will expire within a few weeks."
Contributing: David Jackson in Washington, Brian Winter in McLean, V
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