BAGHDAD - Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday that his parliamentary bloc would back a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki if that gave it the support of a majority of MPs.
In the latest twist in a political crisis that has dogged Iraq ever since US troops completed a pullout in December, Sadr denied that he opposed moves by MPs of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya faction to bring down the Shiite premier.
"This is not true," Sadr said in a written answer to a question from one of his followers.
"I promised my partners that if they got 124 votes, I will complete the 164 votes," he added, referring to the 40 MPs who belong to his parliamentary bloc.
Under the Iraqi constitution, a no confidence motion can be put before parliament either by the president or by 50 MPs. To pass, it must be approved by an absolute majority in the 325-seat parliament.
Maliki's critics in Iraqiya, who accuse him of monopolising decision-making in the hard-won national unity government, have called in recent weeks for a vote on a motion of no confidence in the premier after the party abandoned an earlier boycott of both parliament and the cabinet.
The political crisis took on a sectarian edge when, days after the Iraqiya walkout from parliament in December, the Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran a death squad.
Hashemi says the charges are politically motivated.