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Iraqi lawmakers elect Sunni Arab as parliament speaker

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers have elected a Sunni Arab as speaker of parliament, the first step in forming a new government four months after national elections.

Lawmaker Ahmed al-Asadi says 169 lawmakers voted for Mohammed al-Halbousi during Saturday’s session and 89 voted for former defense minister Khalid al-Obeidi.

Al-Halbousi is the former governor of Anbar province and was supported by the pro-Iran bloc inside parliament.

Early this month, parliament held its first session but failed to proceed with the process of forming a government with two Shiite-led blocs claiming to be the biggest bloc that will be tasked to form the government.

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to 2003, the prime minister position is reserved for Shiites, president a Kurd and parliament speaker a Sunni.