Al-Jafari named new interim Iraq PM

Ibrahim al-Jafari, a Shia, has been appointed interim prime minister and a presidential council has been sworn in, giving Iraq its first freely elected government in 50 years, and its third set of interim leaders since the US-led invasion.

    Ibrahim Al-Jafari had helped lead anti-Saddam forces

    The session wasn't without its gaffes, however. After his inaugural speech, interim President Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader, walked off the stage, returning after most television feeds of the event were cut off to say he had forgotten to name the new prime minister.

    Some Shia legislators were angered by the action.

    "We hope that they forgot," Abbas Hasan Musa al-Bayati, a top member of the Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, said.

    "This happened because of bad management."
     
    Al-Jafari didn't seem upset, however, telling reporters after the session: "This day represents a democratic process and a step forward."
     
    Some have expressed concern about al-Jafari's close ties to Iran and his work for Iraq's first Shia Islamic political party - the Islamic Dawa Party.

    But legislators didn't express any of those reservations on Thursday.

    Power shift

    Al-Jafari was named to the government's top post by the presidential council, made up of the president and his two deputies - all of whom were chosen the day before.

    Jalal Talabani has been chosen
    as Iraq's interim president

    Al-Jafari's rise to the top post

    consolidates the power shift in Iraq, where both the Shia

    Arab majority and the Kurdish minority enjoy new influence

    after decades of Sunni Arab political domination

    .

    Shia have a majority of seats in the National Assembly,

    while Kurds have the second largest bloc.

    Sunni Arabs have

    disproportionately few seats, largely because many

    boycotted the 30 January elections or stayed home for fear of

    attacks at the polls.

    Al-Jafari spent more than two decades in exile, mostly in

    Iran, helping to lead anti-Saddam opposition forces in the

    Islamic Dawa Party, Iraq's first Shia Islamic political

    party.

    The new interim PM also has close ties to Grand Ayat Allah Ali

    al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric. Al-Jafari's wife is a distant relative of al-Sistani's.

    Latest attacks

    In related news, a lawmaker in outgoing interim PM

    Iyad Allawi's coalition in parliament said on Thursday that he s

    urvived an assassination attempt south of Baghdad after the assembly

    meeting the previous day.

    The new interim prime minister
    takes over from Iyad Allawi (C)

    Shaikh Maad Jasim Mizhir

    al-Samarmad, also head of the Zubid tribes in Iraq, said he

    was attacked in al-Wihda district, 35km

    south of the capital.

    Also on Thursday, a Shia shrine was destroyed by assailants who

    planted explosives in the structure in the Latifiya area,

    60km south of Baghdad, according to

    Babil police spokesman Muthana Khalid.

    The al-Khudir shrine

    was destroyed by armed men who arrived in several vehicles,

    Khalid said

    .

    On Wednesday, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was chosen for

    the largely ceremonial job of president, while Adil

    Abd al-Mahdi, a Shia, and current interim President Ghazi

    al-Yawir, a Sunni Arab, were elected vice-presidents.

    Sunni reaction

    Legislators tried to reach out to Sunni Arabs by naming two

    Sunnis, al-Yawir and the speaker of the parliament, Hajim

    al-Hasani, to top posts in the government.

    "We are not related
    to any process in this matter of

    choosing candidates"

    Muthana al-Dhari,
    Association of Muslim Scholars

    After he was named to the presidency, Talabani urged Iraqi

    fighters, who are thought to be mostly Sunni Arabs, to

    talk with the new government. But prominent

    Sunni Arab groups distanced themselves from the new

    government.

    "We are not related to any process in this matter of

    choosing candidates," Muthana al-Dhari, spokesman for the

    Association of Muslim Scholars, told

    Aljazeera.

    Legislators have been in negotiations over

    cabinet nominees who will manage government ministries. They 

    have yet to delve into their primary task: d

    rafting a permanent constitution, which is supposed to be

    finished by 15 August.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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