BAGHDAD — Iraqi President Barham Salih on Thursday expressed his “readiness to resign” amid a weekslong political deadlock in the protest-hit country, the official news agency INA reported.

Salih, a Kurdish politician who took the largely ceremonial post last year, offered to resign in a letter to parliament after he refused to designate for premier a nominee rejected by street protesters.

According to the Iraqi Constitution, the president has no right to reject designating for the premiership post a figure nominated by the bloc with the biggest number of seats in parliament.

“Therefore, I put my readiness to resign the post of the president to members of the House of Representatives (parliament) to decide in light of their responsibilities as representatives of people what they see appropriate,” Salih said in his letter to the legislature, according to INA.

An Iran-backed parliamentary alliance, the Building Bloc, has proposed Asaad al-Eidani, the incumbent governor of oil-rich Basra province, to form Iraq’s new government.

The proposal has angered many protesters, who are demanding the next premier be independent.

Protesters are also demanding the removal of the entire ruling elite and the political system that has been in place in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Salih said his refusal to task al-Eidani with taking over the government was aimed at preventing bloodshed and safeguarding peace in the country, which has been rocked by deadly protests over the past two months.

So far, there has been no comment from parliament.

Adel Abdel-Mahdi resigned as prime minister last month amid the protests.

In reaction to Salih’s move, the parliamentary bloc Moving Forward, allied with populist Muslim Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, renewed its support for picking an independent premier.

“Stances giving precedence to Iraq’s interests, over personal and class interests, are worth respect and appreciation. Iraq is more important than candidates,” the bloc said in a statement.

A constitutional deadline was missed last week to designate a premier amid wrangling among rival parliamentary blocs, which are dominated by Shiite parties.

Iraqi governments have been formed along political and sectarian lines since the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Critics say the system contributes to corruption and incompetence in state institutions. Iraq’s current political standoff has been described as the country’s worst since Saddam’s ouster.

The protests started peacefully in early October before turning violent. At least 489 people, mainly demonstrators, have since been killed in violence blamed on security forces, according to rights groups.

Iraqi authorities have accused “outlaws” of using the peaceful protests to attack demonstrators and security forces, and vandalize property.

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©2019 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html

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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Salih

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