Global Policy Forum

Al-Yawer Named Iraq's New President


By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press
June 1, 2004

The U.S. and Saudi-educated head of Iraq's Governing Council was named president of the interim Iraqi government Tuesday, after the Americans' preferred candidate turned down the post. The selection of Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer to the largely ceremonial post broke a deadlock over the makeup of a new Iraqi government set to assume power June 30.

Strong explosions were repeatedly heard in central Baghdad as word of the appointment was announced. At least one blast appeared to have been in the green zone headquarters of the U.S.-run coalition, where the council was meeting. A large mushroom cloud was seen rising and the blast shook the convention center. Gunfire could be heard and about 10 U.S. soldiers rushed outside the convention center where delegates were meeting. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Council members had angrily accused the American governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, of trying to install Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister, over their opposition. Sources had said earlier that the Americans warned that if the members went ahead and voted for al-Yawer, the United States might not recognize the choice.

Al-Yawer, who routinely wears traditional Arab robes and head gear, was sharply critical of the American occupation in a recent television interview, blaming U.S. ineptness for the deteriorating law and order. Al-Yawer also has denounced violence against American and other coalition forces. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who announced al-Yawer's appointment, had hoped to complete the selection of the 26-member Cabinet by Monday, but the dispute over the presidency delayed the decision for a day. Brahimi said the two vice presidencies went to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of the Shiite Muslim Dawa party, and Rowsch Shaways, speaker of parliament in the Kurdish autonomous region in Irbil.

Most of the 22-member Governing Council backed al-Yawer, the current Governing Council president. A graduate of the Petroleum and Minerals University in Saudi Arabia and of Georgetown University, he is a prominent member of the Shammar tribe, one of the largest in the Gulf region that includes Shiite clans. He enjoys the support of Shiite and Kurdish council members.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor had earlier insisted the Americans have not shown a preference for Pachachi, a claim that many council members dismissed as untrue. Details of the agreement were not clear, but if the Americans had insisted on Pachachi they would have risked a major breach with their Iraqi allies at a sensitive period as Washington prepares to hand control of a still-unstable, war-ravaged country to an untested leadership.

Ahmed Pachachi, a relative and an aide to Pachachi, said the 81-year-old former minister was offered the presidency but turned down the post. Adnan Pachachi later told reporters that the president ``must have the support of all levels of the Iraqi people and all quarters.'' He denied that he was the coalition's choice. ``I apologize (for turning down the job) for valid reasons and for personal reasons,'' he said.

The rest of the Cabinet was to be announced later, Brahimi said, but sources familiar with the final list, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hoshyar Zebari would retain his post as foreign minister. Kurdish official Barham Saleh, who is close to the Americans, would become deputy prime minister for national security affairs.

Falah Hassan, a provincial official in Tikrit, will become interior minister; Adil Abdel-Mahdi, an official of a powerful Shiite political party, was named finance minister; Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei becomes defense minister; and Thamir Ghadbhan takes over as oil minister, the sources said.

The next Iraqi government must negotiate the legal basis under which the 135,000 American troops and other coalition forces will remain here under a sovereign Iraqi government. In Mosul, al-Yawer's hometown, crowds swept into the streets to celebrate the news, cheering and firing weapons in the air. American soldiers there appealed for calm. Al-Yawer's appointment comes at a delicate time for President Bush. Facing election in November, he must ensure that Iraqi politicians who take power next month are supportive of American goals in Iraq.

On Friday, the far more powerful post of prime minister went to Iyad Allawi, a U.S.-backed Shiite Muslim with military and CIA connections. All sides had wanted the presidency to go to a Sunni Muslim Arab. Iraqi officials had said Allawi was chosen because he was considered the best choice to cope with the deteriorating security situation.

With more than 800 U.S. military dead since the Iraq war began in March 2003, Washington is eager to see a government that can tackle the security crisis, including a year-old Sunni revolt in Baghdad and areas north and west of the capital and a Shiite uprising to the south.

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