Shia close in on candidate for PM

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The Independent Online

The United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of religious Shia parties that polled nearly half the vote in last month's election, appears likely to choose the Iraqi interim Vice-President, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as its candidate for prime minister.

The United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of religious Shia parties that polled nearly half the vote in Iraq's election, appears likely to choose the interim Vice-President, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as its candidate for prime minister.

Mr Jaafari is head of the Dawa Party, one of the two main alliance parties. A senior Shia source said: "The competition is still fierce but it appears Mr Jaafari will be the candidate because Dawa is insisting on him."

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Jaafari talked about drafting a constitution. "Islam should be the official religion of the country, and one of the main sources for legislation, along with other sources that do not harm Muslim sensibilities," he said.

He said if confirmed as prime minister he would first try to defeat internal violence. He would not push for foreign troops to withdraw troops any time soon. "How about if we decided to get these troops out of Iraq?" he said, suggesting the situation would be worse without them

The Sunni clerics who led calls for a boycott of the election renewed a demand, however, that the US set a timetable for withdrawal in exchange for their participation in the political process. The Muslim Scholars Association was joined by 27 other groups, including that of the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

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