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Embattled Iraqi PM Indicates Willingness to Step Down

Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has signaled a willingness to step down, raising the possibility of a vote on a new national unity government as early as Saturday.

In a televised speech to the nation Thursday, Mr. Jaafari said the leaders of his Shi'ite bloc should decide who they want to be prime minister. He said he could not accept being an obstacle or looking like an obstacle.

Until now, Mr. Jaafari's refusal to step aside has blocked repeated efforts to form a unity government. Kurdish and Sunni Arab factions say he must step down because he has not done enough to end sectarian violence.

A member of Mr. Jaafari's United Iraqi Alliance, Hussain al-Shahristani, said the bloc's vote for prime minister will come soon.

Following the announcement, the acting speaker of Iraqi's parliament, Adnan Pachachi, said he now believes lawmakers will be able to agree on a government when parliament convenes on Saturday.

The United States has been urging Iraq's political leaders to form a government including Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.