Iraq's highest court paves way for Maliki to serve third term

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - Iraq's highest court ruled on Monday that Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's bloc is the biggest in parliament, meaning he could retain his position, state television reported.

Newly-elected President Fuad Masum, according to the constitution, must now ask Mr Maliki to form a new government in Iraq, which is facing a major challenge from Islamic State Sunni insurgents and widepread sectarian bloodshed.

Mr Maliki, serving in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, has defied calls from Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi'ites and regional power broker Iran to step aside to make room for a less polarising figure.

The decision by Iraq's highest court that could pave the way for Mr Maliki to serve a third term is "very problematic", said a senior Iraqi official. "This will make the situation very, very complex," said the official who asked not to be named due to sectarian sensitivities in Iraq.