Al-Jaafari Ally New Nominee for Iraq PM
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer 13
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Shiite politicians agreed Friday to
nominate Jawad al-Maliki as prime minister, replacing
the incumbent in a bid to clear the way for a
long-delayed new government, two Shiite officials
Al-Maliki is a top ally of outgoing Prime Minister
Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose nomination had sparked sharp
opposition from Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders and
caused a deadlock lasting months.
Leaders of the seven parties that make up the Shiite
alliance agreed on al-Maliki's nomination in a meeting
Friday evening, said Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, a member
of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq, the largest party in the alliance.
Al-Maliki won the nomination with agreement from six
of the parties, said another SCIRI official, Ridha
Jawad Taqi. The seventh party, Fadhila, had presented
its own candidate, but only five of seven parties were
needed to win a "consensus" agreement on a nominee.
The Shiite nominee is to be presented to a session of
parliament on Saturday.
If Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties accept al-Maliki
and some have indicated they will it could be a
breakthrough in the two-month standoff that has
prevented the forming of a national unity government.
Al-Maliki is one of the top figures in al-Jaafari's
Dawa party and has often appeared as his spokesman.
Still, little is known about him since he fled Iraq in
the 1980s, settling in
Syria and working in Dawa's political office. He
returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in
SCIRI and other parties in the alliance had initially
expressed opposition to al-Maliki because it feared he
would be unacceptable to Sunni Arabs.
Al-Maliki was a top official in the commission in
charge of purging members of Saddam's ousted Baath
Party from the military and government. Sunnis, who
made up the backbone of the Baath Party, consider the
commission a means of squeezing them out of influence
in post-Saddam Iraq.
But the Dawa party warned of further problems within
the alliance if al-Maliki were rejected after Dawa
leader al-Jaafari was forced to give up the
Sunnis appeared willing to take al-Maliki, after
fiercely opposing a second term for al-Jaafari, who
bowed out Thursday.
"If anyone is nominated except al-Jaafari, we won't
put any obstacles in his way. He will receive our
support," Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the main Sunni
Arab coalition in parliament, told The Associated
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the Kurdish
parties had no opposition to al-Maliki.
The Shiites are the biggest bloc in parliament but
lack the strength to govern without Sunni and Kurdish
partners. As the biggest bloc, the Shiites get first
crack at the prime minister's job.
Al-Jaafari had held out for weeks against increasing
pressure on him to step aside.
Sunni and Kurdish politicians blamed the rise of
sectarian tensions on al-Jaafari for failing to rein
in Shiite militias and Interior Ministry commandoes,
accused by the Sunnis of harboring death squads. Those
parties refused to join any government headed by
He stepped down after Iraq's most powerful Shiite
cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sent word that
he should go, according to some lawmakers.
U.S officials are insisting that the Iraqis move
quickly to form a new government to begin the task of
confronting sectarian violence and the armed
insurgency. The Bush administration hopes such a
government will curb Iraq's slide toward anarchy and
enable the U.S. to begin bringing home its 133,000
Associated Press correspondent Salah Nasrawi
contributed to this report from Cairo, Egypt.