- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2006

BAGHDAD — Shi’ite politicians agreed yesterday to nominate Jawad al-Maliki as prime minister, replacing the incumbent in a bid to clear the way for a long-delayed new government.

Mr. al-Maliki is a top ally of outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose nomination had sparked sharp opposition from Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders and caused a four-month deadlock.

Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish parties later agreed on nominees to fill the other top government posts, Shi’ite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said. The quick agreement was an indication that the minority groups were ready to accept Mr. al-Maliki’s nomination in what would be a breakthrough in efforts to form a national unity government.

Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shi’ite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-presidential spots, he said.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, would become parliament speaker with two deputies: Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shi’ite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.

The nominees are to be presented to a session of parliament today, officials said.

Shi’ite spokesman Humam Hammoudi confirmed Mr. al-Maliki’s nomination and said the Shi’ites have “a positive stance” toward Kurdish and Sunni nominees for president and parliament speaker.

Leaders of the seven parties that make up the Shi’ite alliance agreed on Mr. al-Maliki’s nomination in a meeting yesterday evening, said Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the largest party in the alliance.

Mr. al-Maliki won the nomination with agreement from six of the parties, said Mr. Taqi, another SCIRI official. The seventh party, Fadhila, had presented its own candidate, but only five of seven parties were needed to win a “consensus” agreement on a nominee.

Some Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties have indicated that they will accept Mr. al-Maliki after fiercely opposing a second term for Mr. al-Jaafari, who bowed out Thursday.

Mr. al-Maliki is one of the top figures in Mr. al-Jaafari’s Dawa party and often has appeared as his spokesman. Still, little is known about him since he fled Iraq in the 1980s, settling in Syria and working in Dawa’s political office. He returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

SCIRI and other parties in the alliance initially expressed opposition to Mr. al-Maliki because of fears he would be unacceptable to Sunni Arabs.

Mr. al-Maliki was a top official in the commission in charge of purging members of Saddam’s ousted Ba’ath Party from the military and government. Sunnis, who made up the backbone of the Ba’ath Party, consider the commission a means of squeezing them out of influence in post-Saddam Iraq.

But the Dawa party warned of further problems within the alliance if Mr. al-Maliki is rejected after Dawa leader Mr. al-Jaafari was forced to give up the nomination.

Sunnis appeared willing to accept Mr. al-Maliki.

“If anyone is nominated except al-Jaafari, we won’t put any obstacles in his way. He will receive our support,” said Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the main Sunni Arab coalition in parliament.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the Kurdish parties had no opposition to Mr. al-Maliki.

The Shi’ites are the biggest bloc in parliament but lack the strength to govern without Sunni and Kurdish partners. As the biggest bloc, the Shi’ites get first crack at the prime minister’s job.

In violence yesterday, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle near an Iraqi police patrol in Tal Afar, killing six persons and wounding 11, police said. The U.S. military said a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died during combat Thursday in the volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad.

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