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Iraq's PM quits

Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki has given up his post as prime minister to Haider al-Abadi, state television reported Thursday — a move that could end a political deadlock that plunged Baghdad into uncertainty as the country fights a Sunni militant insurgency.

The Iraqiya television network said al-Maliki has "relinquished the post of prime minister." It did not elaborate. Afak television, al-Maliki's private network, ran a bulletin saying "al-Maliki joins the greatest men of history by giving up posts."

The announcement comes ahead of an address al-Maliki is due to make later Thursday evening, according to the government.

Iraq's President Fouad Massoum named al-Abadi on Monday to form the next government, but al-Maliki had until now refused to step aside.

Al-Maliki has been struggling for weeks to stay for a third four-year term as prime minister amid an attempt by opponents to push him out, accusing him of monopolizing power and pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite agenda that has alienated the Sunni minority.

But in a meeting of his Dawa party on Thursday evening, al-Maliki agreed to endorse al-Abadi as the next prime minister, two senior lawmakers from his State of Law parliamentary bloc — Hussein al-Maliki and Khalaf Abdul-Samad — told the AP. They and two other Shiite lawmakers said al-Maliki would announce his endorse in his speech Thursday night. The two other lawmakers spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting.

The lawmakers said al-Maliki also agreed to drop a suit before the constitutional court challenging al-Abadi's nomination.

The pressure intensified this week when his Shiite political alliance backed al-Abadi to replace him, and Massoum nominated al-Abadi to form the next government. Al-Maliki for days has refused to step aside, saying the nomination violates the constitution.

Al-Maliki had grown increasingly isolated as not only erstwhile Shiite allies but also top ally Iran, the United States and the U.N. backed al-Abadi, who has 30-days to put together a Cabinet for parliament's approval.

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