The political maneuvering comes as Iraqi leaders grow increasingly concerned by Sunni insurgencies in northern Iraq, and what they regard as American approval of removing Maliki in favor of a thus far unidentified candidate acceptable to Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities and its Shiite majority.
Maliki, a Shiite, has favored sectarian policies considered to be the root of growing hostility in the country, and has been accused of marginalizing other factions. A Sunni-led insurgency has captured much of northern and central Iraq, including major cities and an oil refinery, and is threatening an armed assault on Baghdad.
U.S. ambassador Robert Beecroft and senior State Department official Brett McGurk have met with Sunni leader Usama Nujaifi and potential candidate for prime minister Ahmad Chalabi in the past two days.
"Brett and the ambassador met with Mr. Nujaifi yesterday and they were open about this, they do not want Maliki to stay. We will not allow a third term for the prime minister. They must change him if they want things to calm down," Nabil al-Khashab, senior adviser to Nujaifi, said Thursday.