Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday rejected calls for a national unity government, further deepening the country’s political rifts amid an Islamist-led insurgency.
“The call to form a national salvation government constitutes a coup against the constitution and the political process,” he said in a televised address.
The U.S. has pushed for an inclusive government in Baghdad, citing charges by minority Kurds and Sunnis that Mr. al-Maliki, a Shia, has marginalised them during eight years of rule.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the call on Monday during talks with officials in Baghdad.
Mr. al-Maliki, who has been in power since 2006, eyes a third term.
He said on Wednesday he would attend the first session of the new parliament due on July 1, 2014 when the legislature is expected to start procedures for naming a new Prime Minister.
Mr. al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition came first in the April polls with 92 out of 328 seats.
“The rebels against the constitution have allied themselves with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and with (the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s) Ba’ath Party,” Mr. al-Maliki said.
Earlier this month, the splinter al-Qaeda group ISIS seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and captured a string of towns stretching south towards Baghdad.
ISIS-led Sunni insurgents have also made considerable territorial gains in western Iraq near the border with Syria and Jordan.
State-run broadcaster Iraqiya TV reported on Wednesday that special government forces have taken full control of the country’s largest oil refinery in Biji after clashes with insurgents.
“The refinery is now secured by large security forces, who are able to protect it and repulse any potential aggression from ISIS gunmen,” the official said. The claim could not be independently verified.
The refinery, about 200 km north of Baghdad, accounts for almost a third of Iraq’s refining capacity.
Forces loyal to Mr. al-Maliki and ISIS fighters have battled for almost a week over the control of the refinery amid conflicting reports on who had the upper hand.
Elsewhere, dozens of civilians were reportedly killed and wounded when a Syrian jet fighter mistakenly struck residential areas in the town of Ba’aj, northwest of Baghdad.
“A Syrian warplane was targeting ISIS gatherings last night (Tuesday night) when it struck by mistake the municipality headquarters and some residential buildings, leaving dozens dead and wounded,” a security official told DPA on condition of anonymity.
Syria’s official news agency SANA however dismissed reports of Syrian military action in Iraq as “baseless.” ISIS, which is also active in Syria, already controls swathes of eastern Syria along the border with Iraq.
The insurgents’ swift advances have raised international fears that Iraq is falling apart and the fighting could result in the emergence of a militant enclave.
Iraq has seen increasing violence over the past year, much of it blamed on ISIS and aimed at security forces and Shiite civilians.
The Shia-led government’s response with security sweeps and mass arrests has alienated Iraq’s Sunni minority, from which ISIS and other rebel groups draw their support.