Brahimi refuses to endorse Alawi as interim Iraq leader

Monday, May 31, 2004

BAGHDAD The Iraqi Governing Council has clashed with the United Nations over the appointment of an interim prime minister.

The IGC has proposed its defense minister as the next interim prime minister.

UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has refused to endorse the proposal.

The IGC has nominated Defense Minister Ali Alawi to become prime minister of a new government scheduled to be introduced on June 30. The interim government was meant to lead Iraq to national elections by January 2005, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Alawi, a Shi'ite with longtime links to both the former ruling Baath Party and the U.S. intelligence community, won unanimous endorsement from the council. But the United States stressed that Brahimi will have the final word on Iraq's new interim leadership.

"We are working with ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the secretary general's representative, and he is the one we are waiting to hear from, not only with respect to the prime minister, but the president, the two vice presidents, as well as all of the Cabinet ministers," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on May 28. "And so we have no position on any candidate at this moment because we are waiting to hear from ambassador Brahimi and he needs time to complete his work."

Hours later, the White House welcomed the IGC's choice of Alawi. "He is certainly a fine and capable leader who appears to have broad support among the Iraqi people," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

During the Saddam Hussein regime, Alawi served as secretary-general of the Iraqi National Accord. The opposition group has been comprised of former Saddam officers.

Brahimi did not directly respond to the IGC nomination. Instead, the UN envoy said in a statement that the interim government including its president, vice president, a preparatory committee for Iraq's electoral commission remains to be formed. He would not elaborate.

Later, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the IGC nomination was unexpected and that Brahimi did not attend the announcement. Eckhard said Brahimi would announce the full government once all of the positions were filled.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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