Iraq's caretaker premier Nuri al-Maliki said Wednesday it will take a court ruling for him to leave power, defying the president's decision to task a rival with forming a government.
"I confirm that the government will continue and there will not be a replacement for it without a decision from the federal court," Maliki said in his televised weekly address.
The two-term premier has accused President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution by approving the nomination of Haidar al-Abadi, a member of his Dawa party, to form a government, and vowed he would sue.
But the prospects of Maliki -- who told AFP in 2011 that he would not seek a third term -- succeeding in his quest to cling to office appear dim.
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Whatever ruling the court might deliver, analysts say Maliki has lost too much support to stay in power.
And international backing has meanwhile poured in for Abadi, including from both Washington and Tehran, the two main foreign power-brokers in Iraq.
The political transition comes at a time of crisis for Iraq.
After seizing the main northern city of Mosul in June and sweeping through much of the Sunni heartland, jihadist-led militants bristling with US-made military equipment they captured from retreating Iraqi troops launched another onslaught this month.