Kirkuk, Iraq One of his assistants showed up in a sling -- he had been shot in an outbreak of ethnic violence -- and the dignity of his Arab deputy looked almost as wounded, but that didn't dull the celebratory mood of this city's first democratically elected mayor, a Kurd, after decades of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein.
Voting in an election that U.S. officials are calling an early but significant step in the democratization of Iraq, a council of community leaders selected Abdulrahman Mustafa, a smiling lawyer, as the interim leader of Kirkuk, a vital oil town that has been plagued by conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
The 4th Infantry Division organized the vote as part of an ongoing U.S. program to return a degree of political control to the Iraqi people as a means of preparing the country for national elections and as an escape valve for anti-U.S. sentiments.
Such makeshift experiments in democracy so far have been carried out in Mosul, Basra and a handful of other major Iraqi cities, with mixed success.
Kirkuk is considered an especially important litmus test of Iraqi self-government because it has a volatile ethnic mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.