Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Iraq council names first president

Shiite Muslim picked as first of nine men to serve one-month terms

July 31, 2003

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— After weeks of struggling to choose a leader, Iraq's U.S.-picked interim government named its first president Wednesday.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite Muslim and chief spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party, which was banned during Saddam Hussein's rule, was picked to be the first of nine men who will serve one-month stints leading postwar Iraq. He will hold the presidency in August.

Selecting a president had been a contentious issue as ethnic and political groups wrestled for a share of power. In the end, the 25-member Governing Council decided to rotate the presidency alphabetically among the nine members chosen Tuesday.

The council will control spending and set in place the mechanism for writing a new constitution. A council source told AP that a Cabinet would be named soon.

Members of the council met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who said the institution must first decide what constitutes a legally recognized government before it can lend money to Iraq for reconstruction.

"Clearly a constitution and an elected government would constitute a recognized government, but what do we do in the meantime?" Wolfensohn said. "It's a subject that needs interpretation."

After the council met in Baghdad's Convention Center, a member lashed out at Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa for failing to recognize the interim government's authority. He said the council would not send representatives to the Cairo, Egypt-based organization, the region's most important, if often ineffectual, political body.

"We don't want to go where we are not welcome," council member Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi told Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arab satellite network.

Moussa, in an interview with CNN from the United Nations, stood by his assessment of the council, saying it was "a step in the right direction" but not representative of the Iraqi people.

"We want them (the Americans) also to know that this is an abnormal situation and cannot continue in this way," Moussa said.

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