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Iraq PM Abandons Claim on Another Term

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060420/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=Aj3Pz3Gx1wKC6OaRb12EvIms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3b2NibDltBHNlYwM3MTY- Iraq PM Abandons Claim on Another
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 20, 2006
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      Iraq PM Abandons Claim on Another Term

      By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer 1 minute

      BAGHDAD, Iraq - Bowing to intense pressure, Prime
      Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari agreed Thursday to allow
      Shiite lawmakers to find someone else to head the new
      government, abandoning his claim on another term in
      the face of Sunni and Kurdish opposition.

      Al-Jaafari's abrupt reversal was an apparent
      breakthrough in the monthslong struggle to form a
      national unity government. The Bush administration
      hopes such a government will curb Iraq's slide toward
      anarchy and enable the U.S. to start bringing home its
      133,000 troops.

      Leaders in the seven-party Shiite alliance, the
      largest bloc in the 275-member parliament, were to
      meet Friday to begin choosing a replacement. But their
      field of candidates lacks stature and power, raising
      questions whether the new prime minister will be any
      more successful than al-Jaafari in confronting
      sectarian violence and the brutal insurgency.

      It was unclear why al-Jaafari suddenly decided to
      relinquish the nomination that he won by a single vote
      with backing from radical anti-American cleric Muqtada
      al-Sadr during a ballot among Shiite lawmakers two
      months ago. Al-Jaafari had insisted Wednesday that
      stepping aside was "out of the question."

      But in a letter Thursday to the executive committee of
      the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition,
      al-Jaafari wrote that he was prepared to "make any
      sacrifice to achieve" the organization's goals. "I
      tell you, you chose me, and I return this choice to
      you to do as you see fit."

      "I cannot allow myself to be an obstacle, or appear to
      be an obstacle," al-Jaafari said in an emotional
      address on national television. He said he agreed to a
      new vote so that his fellow Shiite lawmakers "can
      think with complete freedom and see what they wish to

      However, Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said
      al-Jaafari's change of heart followed meetings
      Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf between
      U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi and both al-Sadr and Grand
      Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation's most
      prestigious Shiite cleric.

      "There was a signal from Najaf," Othman told The
      Associated Press. "Qazi's meetings with (al-Sistani)
      and al-Sadr were the chief reason that untied the

      Aides to al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the
      Shiite alliance, said the ayatollah was frustrated
      over the deadlock in forming a government and alarmed
      over the rise in sectarian violence that followed the
      Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

      In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean
      McCormack said there were "indications" the impasse
      would be resolved. He called for a strong and
      effective government that could "begin to repay the
      trust put in the political parties and the political
      leaders by the Iraqi people."

      Many Shiite politicians had been quietly pressing
      al-Jaafari to step down, but were reluctant to force
      him out for fear it would shatter the Shiite alliance
      and make the coalition appear weak.

      Stepping up the pressure this month, Secretary of
      Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack
      Straw flew to Baghdad and demanded quick action to
      resolve the impasse. However, several Iraqi figures
      complained the U.S. and British intervention had
      prompted al-Jaafari's supporters to dig in their heels
      against what many Iraqis considered foreign

      Shiite alliance leaders were to meet Friday to decide
      how to choose a nominee. If representatives of the
      seven alliance parties cannot reach a consensus on a
      single candidate, they will put several choices to a
      vote before the bloc's 130 parliament members
      Saturday, officials said.

      It was unclear whether al-Jaafari's supporters would
      insist on his being among any candidates put to a
      vote, since he did not explicitly say he was out of
      the running.

      The final choice would be presented to parliament
      later Saturday.

      As the largest bloc in parliament with 130 seats, the
      Shiite alliance gets to name the prime minister
      subject to parliament approval.

      But the Shiites lack the votes to guarantee their
      candidate's approval unless they have the backing of
      the Sunnis and Kurds, whom they need as partners to

      Sunnis and Kurds blame al-Jaafari for the increasing
      sectarian tensions and for failing to consult his
      coalition partners. Kurds accused him of failing to
      keep commitments over oil-rich Kirkuk, which the Kurds
      want to incorporate into their three-province
      self-ruled region in the north.

      With the issue over the premiership nearing
      resolution, Sunni and Kurdish politicians expressed
      optimism that the new government could be formed

      "I am confident we will succeed in forming the
      national unity government that all Iraqis are hoping
      for," Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi told

      Bassem Sharif, a prominent Shiite lawmaker, said the
      alliance "is leaning toward" replacing al-Jaafari.
      "The majority opinion is in favor of this."

      Names most often mentioned as possible replacements
      include two members of al-Jaafari's Dawa party, Ali
      al-Adeeb and Jawad al-Maliki. Neither is widely known
      among Iraqis, and neither has extensive experience in
      administration or government.

      Al-Maliki, who fled Iraq in the 1980s and settled in
      Syria, is considered more of a Shiite hard-liner than
      al-Jaafari. Al-Adeeb lived for many years in
      Iran before returning to Iraq after the collapse of
      Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

      Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi is among the most
      capable and experienced Shiite figures but is
      considered unlikely for the post because of opposition
      within the alliance to a nominee from the biggest
      party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution
      in Iraq, or SCIRI. Abdul-Mahdi lost to al-Jaafari in
      the February vote.

      Despite the optimism, much could still go wrong. The
      parties must work out how to divvy up ministries —
      particularly the powerful defense, interior and oil

      Whoever gets the prime minister's job will face
      enormous problems, not only in coping with sectarian
      violence, the armed insurgency and a crumbling economy
      but also in maneuvering between SCIRI's powerful
      leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and al-Sadr.

      Al-Hakim and al-Sadr come from two of the most
      prestigious Shiite families, and each aspires to
      leadership of the majority Shiite community. Armed
      militias affiliated with the two men are engaged in an
      intense struggle for power in towns and cities
      throughout the Shiite heartland south of Baghdad.

      Al-Hakim's party controls the Interior Ministry, whose
      commandos have been blamed by many Sunni Arabs for
      harboring death squads that target Sunni civilians.
      Al-Sadr's Mahdi militia was believed responsible for
      many of the attacks against Sunni mosques following
      the Samarra bombing.


      Associated Press reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra
      contributed to this report.
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