Shi'ite party boosts Allawi
Baghdad - The head of a leading Shi'ite party has thrown his support behind a secular candidate for prime minister - a major blow to the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki.
The endorsement by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council gives Ayad Allawi a major boost even as anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's followers voted on Friday in an unofficial referendum on whom to support.
SIIC leader Ammar al-Hakim said in comments broadcast late on Thursday that his party will not join any government without Allawi.
Allawi's Iraqiya list eked out a two-seat lead over al-Maliki's mainly Shi'ite bloc and both are trying to get enough allies to gain a parliamentary majority needed to form a new government.
Al-Sadr and al-Hakim's parties are partners in a Shi'ite religious coalition known as the Iraqi National Alliance.