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The Kurdish Fouad Masoum named president of Iraq

Iraq’s parliament elected senior Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Masoum as president on Thursday, a long-awaited step in creating a new government capable of countering a Sunni Muslim insurgency.

Iraq’s politicians have been in deadlock over forming a new government since an election in April. The next step, choosing a prime minister, may prove far more difficult.

Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled since the election in a caretaker capacity, defying demands from the Sunnis and Kurds that he step aside for a less divisive figure. Even some Shi’ites oppose his bid for a third term.

Critics say Maliki is a polarising figure who has stirred up sectarian tensions that have worsened since Sunni insurgents swept through north and west Iraq last month, seizing large swathes of territory and declaring a “caliphate”.

A shooting and bombing attack on a bus near Baghdad killed 52 prisoners and nine policemen on Thursday, Ministry of Justice sources said, highlighting the need for political leaders to bury their differences and bring stability.

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