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Iceland's president to step down after 20 years

In his New Year's address, the president of Iceland has said he will be stepping down after 20 years in office. The elected head of state said that the move did not mean he was "abandoning ship."

After 20 years in the role, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson announced on Friday that he would be stepping down, effectively paving the way for a presidential election in June.

"I feel that the right crossroads are now ahead to transfer the responsibilities of the president to others shoulders, and have therefore decided not to stand for re-election," the president said in his New Year's address.

The 72-year-old president assumed office in 1996, and was most recently re-elected in 2012.

While the office is largely ceremonial, the president has the power to call referendums and veto laws passed by the nation's parliament.

In the past, Grimsson struck down bills to compensate the UK and the Netherlands with regards to damages caused by the 2008 collapse of Iceland's online bank Icesave.

He also campaigned against aspirations to join the EU, saying any progress in that direction should be put to a referendum.

Grimsson noted that his departure from the president's office did not mean he was "abandoning" Iceland.

"Even though someone else will hold the rudder as president, I shall always be willing to undertake tasks on our ship of state; I am by no means abandoning ship and will always gladly grasp the oars together with others," Grimsson said.

ls/jil (AFP, dpa)

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