Obama applauds nomination of new Iraqi PM as "step forward"

U.S. President Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Iraq from his vacation compound at Martha's Vineyard, MassachusettsBy Jeff Mason CHILMARK Mass. (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday Iraq had taken “a promising step forward” in designating a new prime minister, vowing to step up support for a new Iraqi government in a widening conflict that his administration had hoped to avoid. Speaking to reporters in the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing with his family, Obama said Iraq had made important strides toward rebuffing fighters from the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot, since the United States authorized air strikes last week. “Today Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort,” Obama said in brief remarks. Obama’s comments and a congratulatory telephone call he made to Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi signal the administration’s expectation, or hope, that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s 8-year-rule is all but over, even as Maliki shows no sign of relinquishing power.

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