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Shi'ite rivals say Bush wants Iraq PM Jaafari out

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060328/wl_nm/iraq_usa_jaafari_dc_1 Shi ite rivals say Bush wants Iraq PM Jaafari out Tue Mar 28, 6:41 AM ET BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060328/wl_nm/iraq_usa_jaafari_dc_1

      Shi'ite rivals say Bush wants Iraq PM Jaafari out

      Tue Mar 28, 6:41 AM ET

      BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A senior Iraqi politician from a
      rival Shi'ite party to Prime Minister Ibrahim
      al-Jaafari said on Tuesday that U.S. President George
      W. Bush had made clear he did not want Jaafari to lead
      a new government of national unity.

      Bush had written to Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
      urging him to nominate someone else, Rida Jawad
      al-Takki, an aide to Hakim, said in a statement
      telephoned to Reuters.

      Takki said the letter was transmitted by U.S.
      ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been trying to
      broker agreement among Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni Arab
      leaders on a unity government.

      "George Bush sent a letter via Khalilzad to Abdul Aziz
      al-Hakim, as head of the Alliance, telling him that
      George Bush does not wish or want Ibrahim al-Jaafari
      to be prime minister," Takki, who is from Hakim's
      SCIRI party, said.

      A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy said she was
      unaware of such a communication and said it was not
      U.S. policy to interfere in the process of forming a
      government: "This is an Iraqi decision," she said.

      The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
      Iraq (SCIRI) is the biggest party within the United
      Iraqi Alliance bloc, which includes Jaafari's Dawa
      party.

      The Alliance, which won the most seats in parliament
      after a December election, has the right to nominate
      the prime minister.

      Jaafari won the nomination to a second term by a
      single vote in an internal ballot of Alliance
      lawmakers last month, edging out SCIRI candidate Vice
      President Adel Abdul Mahdi.

      Publicly, SCIRI officials say they continue to back
      Jaafari. But opposition from minority Sunni Arabs and
      Kurds to the interim premier has caused deadlock in
      talks on forming a government, more than three months
      after the election.

      Hakim has publicly criticized what he has called U.S.
      interference and specifically Khalilzad's role in
      Iraq, where political leaders see him as a key player
      in negotiations.

      But there are indications Shi'ite rivals are ready to
      try to drop Jaafari to break the impasse. Iraqi
      political sources have also said Washington does not
      want Jaafari to continue.

      The same sources say Jaafari has backing from
      Iran and note the crucial support he received in the
      voting from Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iranian-backed cleric
      and militia leader.

      Khalilzad is expected to hold talks with Iranian
      officials in unusual talks between Washington and
      Tehran in an effort to help stabilize Iraq under a
      national unity government.
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