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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's incumbent prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, vowed on Friday not to drop his quest for a third term in power amid a growing chorus of critics urging that he be replaced in the next government.

"I will never give up my candidacy for the post of prime minister," Maliki said in a statement read on state television by an announcer.

"I will remain a soldier, defending the interests of Iraq and its people, in the face of the (Islamic State) terrorists and its allies, the Baathists and the Naqshbandi, who are executing a dubious outside agenda."

He was referring to some of the most prominent armed Sunni groups, who have seized control of large swathes of majority-Sunni regions of Iraq since last month.

(Reporting By Ned Parker; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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