Iraq's president said Monday that he would call the country's new parliament into session for the first time on March 12, staring the clock on a 60-day period during which the legislature must elect a new head of state and sign off on a prime minister and Cabinet.

The constitution requires parliament to hold its first meeting no later than four weeks after the vote was certified, which occurred Feb. 12, nearly two months after the election was held.

"We will call today for holding the meeting on the 12th of this month because it is the last day that the constitution allows us to hold the meeting of the new parliament," President Jalal Talabani told reporters.

Iraq is in the midst of a political crisis, with its many parties deeply divided over the main Shiite bloc's decision to name Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to a new term.

A coalition of Sunni, Kurdish and some secular politicians began a drive last week to block al-Jaafari from continuing as head of government.