Newspapers in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia on Sunday blamed Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for unrest sweeping his country, saying his "sectarian" polices are taking Iraq to a "devastating civil war".
Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have since Monday overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq.
"Policies of sectarianism and monopolisation of power that have been followed by Maliki... have led Iraq to the brink of a devastating civil war," Alriyadh newspaper wrote.
Relations between Riyadh and Iran-backed Maliki have been strained. In March, Maliki accused the kingdom and neighbouring Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge that drew harsh criticism from Riyadh.
"It is inevitable that a new political leadership enjoying a broad national consensus should be sought if (Iraq) wants to avoid sliding into a war similar to the one raging in neighbouring Syria," Alriyadh said.
Iraqis should be wary of "the fire of sectarianism that would burn everyone," the daily said.
Saudi columnist Abderrahman al-Rashed also lashed out at Maliki, accusing him of doing anything to stay in power.
"Nuri al-Maliki is worse, and more dangerous, than ISIL and Qaeda. He is a bad person that is ready to commit massacres in order to stay in power," he wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat.
He argued that ISIL is only part of the uprising that includes a "majority" of Sunni Arab tribes and former military personnel disbanded after the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam.
"The presence of ISIL could not hide the main factors in Iraq's conflict: a third of the population are punished by the regime for sectarian" reasons, he wrote, referring to the Sunni Arab minority, mostly disgruntled since the regime changed.
Al-Jazirah daily also accused Maliki's of sectarianism.
"Maliki says he failed because of a conspiracy... This is a bad excuse, because this person is sectarian up to his neck," it wrote.