Iraqi President Barham Salih refused on Thursday to designate the nominee of an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister, saying he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters.
The Bina bloc, led by Iran-backed Hadi al-Amiri, had nominated Basra Governor Asaad al-Edani to be the next prime minister.
But Salih said in a statement that appointing Edani would not placate protesters demanding an independent prime minister with no party affiliation or help calm the unrest that has rocked the country.
He said that because the constitution does not give him the right to reject nominees for the premiership, he was ready to quit, Reuters reported.
"Out of my desire to stop blood and maintain peace, and with due respect to Asaad al-Edani, I refuse to nominate him," Salih said.
"Therefore I put my willingness to resign the post of president to members of parliament so that they decide as representatives of the people what they see fit."
According to Reuters, sources in Salih's office said the president left Baghdad on Thursday for his hometown of Sulaimaniya in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq and that he would deliver a televised
Anti-government protesters blocked roads and bridges in Baghdad and the country's south Thursday after torching several buildings overnight.
The demonstrators oppose the entire political class and have vented their anger against leaders who are negotiating to nominate an establishment insider as the next prime minister, AFP reported.
"The government is hostage to corrupt parties and sectarian divisions", said one activist, Sattar Jabbar, 25, in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
Smoke and flames from burning tyres in Nasiriyah, Basra and Diwaniyah blocked major roads and bridges across the Euphrates all night, AFP correspondents said, before some of these roadblocks were lifted in the morning.
Iraq has been rocked by protests since October 1, also prompting Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to resign last month.