- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

BAGHDAD — Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, the tribal chief who yesterday was named interim president of Iraq, blames much of the postwar chaos on the U.S.-led occupation but is not seen as anti-American.

Mr. al-Yawer was born in 1958, the same year Iraqi army officers overthrew his country’s monarchy.

His grandfather, Ahmed Ajil al-Yawer, had served as a member of the king’s parliament. In 1959, Mr. al-Yawer’s Shammar tribe supported an aborted military revolt against Gen. Abdul Karim Qassim.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. al-Yawer moved with his family to Saudi Arabia. He studied engineering at Saudi Arabia’s Petroleum and Minerals University, and later studied in the United States.

Mr. al-Yawer returned to Iraq after the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein. He was not known to be active among Iraqi exiles opposed to Saddam.

Though his post is largely ceremonial, Mr. al-Yawer’s prominence could help Iraq build ties with neighboring Arab, Sunni Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, where he still has business interests. One of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s wives is a member of the Shammar tribe. The tribe also has members in Syria.

The Shammar tribe, one of the largest in the Persian Gulf region, includes Shi’ite as well as Sunni Muslim clans. Mr. al-Yawer, an Arab and a Sunni, built good relations with Kurds and Shi’ites who refused to endorse his rival, Adnan Pachachi, seen as the U.N. and U.S. candidate for the presidency.

In an interview published yesterday in the Saudi daily, Al-Riyadh, Mr. al-Yawer belittled Mr. Pachachi, saying the octogenarian former foreign minister had been caught napping at meetings of the Iraqi Governing Council and had no “popular base inside Iraq.”

Mr. al-Yawer was quoted as saying United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who announced Mr. al-Yawer’s appointment yesterday, had told him that Mr. Pachachi should get the presidency in recognition of his age and stature.

“How can honoring someone in his last days come at the expense of Iraq’s future, which needs to be rejuvenated?” Mr. al-Yawer was quoted as telling Al-Riyadh.

Mr. al-Yawer was quoted as saying that chief U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer had offered him “several posts,” including ambassador to Washington, if he would pass up the presidency.

“I told him, ‘Search for whoever wants to go to Washington, I am the son of this country and am clinging to it, and it is the Iraqi people who want to nominate me — if you believe in democracy and respond to the people’s will.’”

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