The United States has praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for deciding not to stay in his post, calling it a "major step forward" in uniting Iraq.
U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice said in a statement on August 14 that Washington also commends Maliki for supporting Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi "in his efforts to form a new government in line with the Iraqi Constitution."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the move by Maliki allows for the "historic and peaceful transition of power in Iraq."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed Maliki's decision and said he was looking forward to the "swift formation of an inclusive, broad-based government" in Iraq.
Maliki announced early on August 15 in a national television address that he was "withdrawing" his candidacy for the post of prime minister in favor of Abadi.
Standing alongside key members of his political party, Maliki said he was stepping aside in order to "facilitate the political process and government formation."
He added that his decision to support Abadi was to "safeguard the high interests of the country."
The move ended a political deadlock in Iraq, as Maliki had previously resisted immense domestic and international pressure to step down from his office in favor of Abadi.
Abadi was nominated for prime minister by Iraqi President Fuad Masum on August 11.
Maliki, a Shi'a, called Masum's move "null and void" and said he would go to court to stay in his post as he led the political bloc that won the most votes in April elections.
But there was mounting pressure from Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq -- including his own Dawa Party -- and from the leaders of neighboring Iran, Saudi Arabia, and several Western countries for Maliki to resign.
Maliki, 64, has been prime minister since 2006.
He had been a dissident during the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein and lived in exile in Iran and Syria before returning to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Hussein's government in 2003.
With reporting by AFP, AP