Countdown to a new government for Iraq, a day of confusion, change and conflict

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The Independent Online

They came from three camps. All with agendas. All with plans for the future. For the United States, representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority filed into a convention centre in Baghdad's Green Zone to thrash out a deal. Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations' envoy, led another delegation.

They came from three camps. All with agendas. All with plans for the future. For the United States, representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority filed into a convention centre in Baghdad's Green Zone to thrash out a deal. Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations' envoy, led another delegation.

Finally came the members of the Iraqi Governing Council, for months seen as a puppet of the US-led occupation force. Most observers viewed them as toothless, unable to act independently of the Americans, and present merely to give the new Iraqi government they had been asked to help select some degree of legitimacy. Yesterday, they appeared to wriggle free from Washington's guiding hand.

By 9.30am , allegations fly that the Americans are trying to bounce the convention into choosing a president to lead the country out of occupation. The elder statesman, Adnan Pachachi, may have been the choice of the Americans and the UN but he was not the man the Iraqis wanted. So a day of brinkmanship, bombs and papering over the cracks begins.

At 10am , Iraqi leaders are still on collision course with the US, who for once have the UN onside. The Iraqi situation appears weak and they accuse the CPA supremo Paul Bremer of trying to pressurise them into accepting 81-year-old Mr Pachachi, over the council's favourite, its president, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, 45. Both are Sunni Muslim Arabs.

The CPA and Mr Brahimi press ahead with plans to unveil to the media the names of a cabinet line-up for the interim government to take over on 30 June.

By 10.43am , the Iraqis and Americans are deadlocked. Governing Council members and others say the US-run coalition will submit a third name to break the impasse. Such a move could further delay announcement of a new government.

Some sources close to the deliberations, speaking on condition of anonymity, have suggested that the choice could be Saad al-Janabi, who was close to Saddam Hussein until he fled to Kuwait and the United States in the 1990s.

At 10:58am , the Iraqis' wishes appear to have been ignored when a member of the Governing Council says Mr Pachachi is to be named president. Mahmoud Othman says the decision will be formally announced later.

At 11:06am , word comes from inside the convention centre that the Iraqi technocrat Thamir Ghadhban has been appointed Oil Minister.

But by 11.16am news has leaked that stuns the gathered diplomats, observers and journalists. Adnan Pachachi has turned down the presidency. Remarkably, within five minutes the Iraqi Governing Council is claiming that its head, Ghazi Yawar, will be president.

By 11.30am , Mr Yawar, a Sunni Muslim who lived for years in Saudi Arabia, is confirmed as President of Iraq in an administration that is due to take over on 30 June. Mr Pachachi and Mr Brahimi congratulate Mr Yawar.

Before 12.00 , an explosion is heard in central Baghdad. Smoke is seen rising from the Green Zone. Word that Mr Yawar had been selected as President is already spreading through Baghdad.

Over the next half-hour, further blasts hit central Baghdad. Witnesses hear at least four mortar-like explosions and can see columns of smoke spiralling close to where US, UN and Iraqi officials are meeting. Inside the compound, Mr Brahimi says Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Rowsch Shaways have been named joint Vice-Presidents. In northern Iraq, a car bomb explodes near a US base. A witness says 11 Iraqis have been killed.

At 12.10pm , Iraqi Governing Council member Rajaa Habib Khuzai attempts to clarify the morning's mysterious diplomatic proceedings. "Pachachi was named, then he turned it down and Yawar was named to the position instead. That's it, and everyone is happy."

At 1pm , a further explosion, followed by gunfire, erupts near one of the entrances to the Green Zone. With US and Iraqi officials announcing more names of the new government, a mushroom cloud billows 30 yards over the city. Coalition aircraft patrol the skies. US soldiers rush outside the convention centre and head for the nearby al-Rashid hotel.

Mr Yawar then calls for a UN resolution. "We, the Iraqis, look forward to being granted full sovereignty through a Security Council resolution to enable us to rebuild a free, independent, democratic and federal unified homeland."

But the day's diplomatic earthquakes are not over. At 2.33pm , Iraqi Governing Council member Younadem Kana says it will dissolve immediately. The council had been expected to remain in office until the transfer of sovereignty. The government-in-waiting will take over its duties.

Mr Brahimi named Iyad Allawi as interim Prime Minister last week; he was also the choice of the Governing Council. With 3pm approaching, Mr Allawi says Iraqis "like other peoples of the world" do not enjoy living under foreign military occupation. "We will need the participation of the multinational forces to help in defeating the enemies of Iraq," he says. "We will enter into alliances with our allies to accomplish that."

Within hours the appointments are welcomed by Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser. She says: "Today's announcement is a positive step for the future of a free Iraq. These are not America's puppets."

By 7pm , the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, admits Iraq's new interim government was an imperfect process that required compromise on all sides. He says the UN did "exactly what we set out to do". Within an hour, President George Bush says the new Iraqi interim government represents a broad cross-section of society and has the "talent" to guide the nation. But he warns that the transfer of authority could be accompanied by more violence.

There are scenes of joy in the village of Alghana, near the Syrian border. The new Iraqi President, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, is a member of its Shammar tribe. Mr Yawar was quoted as saying Mr Bremer offered him "several posts", including ambassador to Washington, if he would pass up the presidency.


10am: Paul Bremer accused of putting pressure on Iraqis to make Adnan Pachachi president

11.16am: After reports he accepted the presidency, Mr Pachachi says he has refused

11.30am: Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar is confirmed as President

12 noon: Explosions rock Baghdad