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Kurd leader named Iraq president

BBC | April 6, 2005

Iraq's parliament has chosen Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as the country's new president after the first elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

His deputies will be former President Ghazi Yawer, a Sunni Arab, and Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is Shia.

The presidential team will nominate the key role of prime minister who will lead Iraq until new polls in December.

Shia politician Ibrahim Jaafari is expected to be named prime minister in the coming days.

The Shia and Kurdish blocs agreed the nominations with Sunni parties on Tuesday, ending weeks of political deadlock since elections in January.

The ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein watched the session on television in jail, officials said.

Kurdish victory

Members of the new parliament, dressed in tribal robes, business suits and religious garments, cast their secret ballots for the three-man presidency council in the assembly inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

PRESIDENCY COUNCIL
Elected by National Assembly
Largely ceremonial role
Helps select prime minister

The votes were then counted publicly.

The three candidates received 227 votes, while 30 ballots were left blank, according to AP news agency.

Thanking parliament, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Mr Talabani said it was a step towards a free, democratic Iraq after long years of dictatorship.

His appointment is a major political victory for Iraq's Kurdish community, which suffered greatly under Saddam Hussein.

It makes room for his long-time rival - Kurdistan Democratic Party chief Massoud Barzani - to head an autonomous government in the Kurdish region in the north of Iraq.

"We are happy that the first elected president of Iraq is coming from a community that has been persecuted for years," Shia MP Hussein Shahrastani told AFP news agency.

But the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says differences remain between the Shias and Kurds, in particular over who should control the important oil ministry.

Iraq's politicians are also trying to allocate jobs to Sunni Muslims, who largely boycotted the elections, in an effort to try to draw support away from the continuing insurgency, she says.

Watched by Saddam

Kurdish MP and outgoing foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said a new cabinet headed by Mr Jaafari will be approved "within a few days", AFP reported.

The transitional government's main task will be to oversee the drafting of a permanent Iraqi constitution and pave the way for elections in December.

Iraqi officials said Saddam Hussein and members of his former regime watched the proceedings on television in jail.

"I decided that Saddam and the 11 others will watch it on the television," Iraqi Human Rights minister Bakhtiar Amin told AFP before the session.

"There will be a place in jail for Saddam and the 11 to watch the TV to understand their time is finished, there is a new Iraq and that they are no longer ruling the country; so they can understand that in the new Iraq, people are elected and they are not coming to power by a coup d'etat."

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