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Vote on Iraqi President Is Postponed a Second Time

Governing Council members say Bremer, who reportedly opposes their choice, ordered the delay. His spokesman denies it.

June 01, 2004|Edmund Sanders | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — The political standoff over who will become Iraq's next president dragged on Monday amid accusations that the U.S. was pushing to name its preferred candidate and scuttling an endorsement by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

The council had been scheduled to meet Monday, when it was widely expected to nominate its current leader, Ghazi Ajil Yawer, for the largely ceremonial post.

L. Paul Bremer III, who heads the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, and United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi reportedly support former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi.

For the second time in two days, Bremer ordered the Iraqi body to postpone its vote, council members and aides said.

"The U.S. must be cooking up something behind curtains," said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish council member. "They are interfering with the process. They have no right to do this. It should be done by Iraqis."

Dan Senor, a spokesman for Bremer, denied that the U.S. civilian administrator had halted the council vote.

"Ambassador Bremer doesn't call their meetings and he doesn't cancel their meetings," Senor said.

A U.S. source said Monday night that Bremer and Brahimi would announce Pachachi's presidency along with the members of the Cabinet at a news conference this morning.

The battle over the presidency comes as the U.S. prepares to transfer authority to an interim government by month's end. To increase the new body's credibility, the U.S. invited the U.N. to help select the new Iraqi leaders.

Last week, the council abruptly endorsed one of its members, Iyad Allawi, for prime minister, over Brahimi's choice of Hussein Shahristani, a relatively unknown Shiite nuclear scientist.

Though many American officials favored the selection of Allawi, on Monday officials said that Bremer had selected Brahimi -- not the council -- to assemble the interim government.

Bremer, however, has the final decision.

A Brahimi spokesman downplayed the standoff, calling it a natural part of the political process.

"We don't see this as a delay," said Ahmed Fawzi, spokesman for Brahimi. "It's just a question of getting everybody on board and building as wide a consensus as possible on the list of names."

Council member Sondul Chapouk said Bremer had told the council that he was considering additional candidates for the president's job, according to Associated Press Television News.

Times staff writer Maggie Farley at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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