Iraq's Shiite bloc to support Sunni Arab for president

BAGHDAD – Iraq's main Shiite bloc led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will endorse a "moderate Sunni Arab" candidate to succeed incumbent President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, a leading bloc member has said.

"The State of the Law bloc believes the position of president shouldn't be reserved for a certain entity," MP Mohamed Sayhoud told Anadolu Agency on Friday.

Political agreements that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had called for the post of president to be reserved for a Kurd, the premiership for a Shiite and the position of parliamentary speaker for a Sunni.

"Past agreements are bound to change after parliamentary elections," Sayhoud said, in reference to upcoming April 30 polls.

Talabani will have finished two consecutive four-year terms in June. According to the constitution, he cannot run for a third term.

The Kurds represent Iraq's second largest ethnic group after Arabs. The autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq controls several strategic oil and gas fields.

Tensions mounted between Baghdad and the Kurdish administration after the latter announced plans to unilaterally export oil.

Upcoming parliamentary polls will come amid an uptick in militant attacks in the northern and western parts of the country, which have also spilled over into Baghdad.

The largest electoral bloc in Iraq's 328-member parliament has the right to nominate candidates for the premiership and other senior cabinet posts.

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