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Iceland's president says he will not run for re-election

Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson attends a news conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Iceland’s president since 1996, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, said on Friday he would not run for another term at the next election in June.

In a New Year speech, Grimsson, 72, said he felt it was the right time “to transfer the responsibilities of the president onto other shoulders”.

Grimsson had planned to step down at the last election in 2012, but changed his mind due to strong voter support.

“The many-faceted uncertainty which, four years ago, resulted in calls on me to continue in office as president is happily no longer a factor in the current situation,” Grimsson said.

More than previous presidents, Grimsson has used his right to demand popular votes on key issues, vesting real political power in a position that had been seen as largely ceremonial.

In 2010 and 2011 he demanded referendums on deals made by Iceland’s government to pay the governments of Britain and the Netherlands for their bailouts of customers of private Icelandic banks. In both cases, voters rejected the deals.

Author and former soccer player Thorgrimur Thrainsson has announced his intention to run for president. Many pundits also expect comedian and former Reykjavik mayor Jon Gnarr to be a candidate, although he has said he will not run “this time around”.

Reporting by Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir; Writing by Teis Jensen in Copenhagen; Editing by Kevin Liffey