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Iraq's premier says he is not seeking re-election

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BAGHDAD -- Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, credited with leading the country's victory over Islamic State militants, said Thursday he is not seeking a second term in office amid wrangling among rival political groups.

Al-Abadi's bloc finished third in the May parliamentary elections that were marred by allegations of fraud.

Two alliances -- one of them including al-Abadi -- claim that they have formed the largest parliamentary bloc with the right to name the new prime minister.

Al-Abadi, a Shiite Muslim politician, took office in 2014 and rebuilt the country's security forces that had collapsed in the face of a blitz by Islamic State a year earlier.

The 66-year-old said Thursday that he does not "cling to" power.

"I do not want a second term. I don't cling to a second term. We will rotate power peacefully," he told reporters in Baghdad.

His remarks came after Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, said he does not favor picking a new prime minister from ex-officials.

Al-Abadi said Thursday he "respects" al-Sistani's directives.

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In recent months, the mostly Shiite province of Basra, which is Iraq's oil hub, has been rocked by deadly protests against poor services and unemployment.

By custom, Iraq's prime minister should be a Shiite, the parliamentary speaker a Sunni and the president a Kurd.

The May 12 legislative vote was Iraq's first since al-Abadi declared victory over Islamic State in December after a U.S.-backed campaign of three years.

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