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.