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Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki walks to cast his ballot during parliamentary election in Baghdad April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed Friday not to drop his quest for a third term in power amid a growing chorus of critics urging 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.