Iraq's Sunnis say they have agreed on a candidate for parliament speaker as lawmakers to meet


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An Iraq weapon dealer cleans his weapon at his home in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 12, 2014. The weapon dealer said prices of weapons and ammunition have nearly doubled in recent weeks in Iraq. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)


BAGHDAD — The Iraqi parliament's Sunni blocs have agreed on a candidate for the post of parliament speaker, paving the way for the legislature to take the first formal step toward forming a new government.

The legislature is scheduled to meet Sunday amid pressure to quickly agree on new leadership that can hold the country together in the face of a Sunni militant offensive. Lawmakers failed to make any progress in parliament's first session on electing a new speaker, president and prime minister, and deadlock prompted the second session to be postponed until Sunday.

Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Karbooli said in a statement late Saturday that Sunni parties decided on Salim al-Jubouri as their nominee for speaker. He said al-Jubouri promised not to support a third term for embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is under pressure to step aside.

Under an informal arrangement that took hold after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the speaker's chair goes to a Sunni, the presidency to a Kurd and the prime minister's post to a Shiite.

If parliament has a quorum Sunday, it could vote on al-Jubouri's nomination.

But in the past, Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs have agreed to all three posts ahead of time as a sort of package deal. It was unclear whether political leaders would insist on a similar arrangement this time around.

According to the constitution, parliament will have 30 days after choosing a new speaker to elect a president, who will have 15 days to ask the leader of the majority in the 328-seat legislature to form a government. Then a prime minister will be picked.

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