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Interim Iraqi Government Is Installed

Members are a mix of politicians, intellectuals and business leaders. Many are Western-leaning former exiles who are likely to support U.S. policies.

June 02, 2004|Edmund Sanders | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — With car bomb and rocket attacks sounding in the background, an interim Iraqi government representing a delicate mix of the country's main ethnic and religious groups was appointed Tuesday after weeks of wrangling over who would lead the country when the U.S. transfers sovereignty this month.

The new body, including a prime minister, president, two vice presidents and 32 Cabinet ministers, replaced the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, which formally dissolved itself Tuesday morning.

The naming of the government -- the result of long, sometimes acrimonious negotiations among the U.S., the council and the United Nations -- marked a turning point for Iraqis, who are anxious to see an end to the American-led occupation.

The interim body includes a mix of politicians, intellectuals and business leaders. Many of them are U.S.-educated, Western-leaning former exiles who are likely to support U.S. policies in Iraq, but there are also a few whose appointments were resisted by Washington.

Even though Iraq's new president and prime minister did not appear to be the Bush administration's top choices, they and the other leaders appointed Tuesday were selected from a pool of politicians who have worked with the U.S.-led civilian administration here for more than a year.

During a day of speeches interrupted by the sounds of explosions around the capital, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi announced that Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a tribal leader and member of the Governing Council, would become president of the interim government, ending a standoff that threatened to delay the announcement of the body.

The presidency, a largely ceremonial post, was first offered Tuesday morning to former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi, a U.S. favorite who also served on the council. But Pachachi said he declined the offer after several council members voiced their preference for Yawer, who recently has been a vocal critic of the occupation.

At a news conference, Pachachi said he had begun to lose support after being unfairly labeled the candidate most favored by the U.S. Being linked to Washington made him look "less patriotic," he said.

"The post must be occupied by a person who can gain the support of all sectors of society," Pachachi said. "He has to be a force of unification, not of division. I realized that there are some sides who expressed their discomfort with me occupying this post."

During his first address as interim president, Yawer called on the United States to hand over total control of Iraq.

"We Iraqis look forward to being granted full sovereignty through a [U.N.] Security Council resolution to enable us to rebuild a free, independent, democratic and federally unified homeland," Yawer said.

After suggesting that the U.S. would transfer "limited sovereignty" to the interim government, Bush administration officials recently agreed to "full sovereignty." But the definition remains unclear. For example, the interim government will be prohibited from changing some laws put in place by the coalition and will not have the power to form agreements that "permanently alter the destiny of Iraq," according to coalition officials.

Another unsettled issue is how much control the new government will have over U.S. troops in Iraq, which will stay in the country after the Coalition Provisional Authority is dissolved June 30.

Some, including Yawer, want Iraqis calling the shots, but U.S. military officials have said they will be in charge.

In New York, the United States and Britain sought to address concerns about a proposed U.N. mandate for a U.S.-led multinational force by declaring that it "shall expire upon the completion of the political process."

The new text of a draft resolution circulated by the two countries gives no exact expiration date, but it will be no later than January 2006.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan vowed to consult with the interim body on passing a new resolution embracing the government.

The transitional government will remain in place until direct elections can be held next year.

In Washington, President Bush called the naming of the government a "hopeful day for the Iraqi people and the American people. It's going to send a clear signal that terrorists can't win." But he also warned that violence in Iraq would probably continue as the hand-over date approaches.

"There's still violent people who want to stop progress," he said. "Their strategy hasn't changed."

In a stark reminder of the nation's security challenges, a car bomb killed three Iraqis and wounded 27 on Tuesday at the Baghdad headquarters of one of the leading Kurdish parties, a couple of blocks from where the interim government was being announced inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area that houses the offices of coalition authorities. Amid the sounds of gunfire and fighter jets, the naming ceremony was briefly delayed.

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