(WASHINGTON POST) BAGHDAD — Iraq’s president on Monday asked a veteran Shiite politician, Haider al-Abadi, to form a new government, setting the stage for a vicious political showdown in a country already struggling to contain an Islamist extremist insurgency.

As his already limited political support crumbled, the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, dug in for a fight. He argued that the appointment of the 62-year-old Abadi as prime minister-designate was legally invalid.

The clash has raised deep concerns at home and abroad about Iraq’s teetering stability. Ominously, Maliki reminded the country in a televised address Monday of his position as head of the armed forces and assured soldiers that the “error” will be rectified.

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