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Iraqi President Says He Will Not Seek New Term

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
AL-SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has confirmed that he will not seek another term when his mandate expires at the end of the year and will focus instead on writing his memoirs.

Talabani, who was born in 1933 and underwent heart surgery in the United States in August last year, implied he would remain head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.

"I will not nominate myself to another presidential term and I will dedicate my time to party work and writing my memoirs," Talabani told reporters in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region on March 15, before leaving for a trip to Turkey.

Talabani, a Kurd and former guerrilla leader who fought Saddam Hussein's regime, has been president since 2005. Although he does not wield executive power in Iraq, his role has been seen as vital to maintaining the country's delicate and sometimes volatile ethnic balance.

His two vice presidents are a Shi'ite and a Sunni Arab.

Their mandates expire at the end of December, when Iraq holds parliamentary polls that will determine whether Shi'ite Arab Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government stays in power. Some Iraqi politicians doubt whether Talabani will be replaced by another Kurd.

Tensions are heating up between Baghdad and the Kurdistan government, as disputes simmer over oil rights and territory. Talabani has often helped to defuse such disputes.