UN's Brahimi welcomes Allawi as Iraq prime minister

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The Independent Online

The Iraqi Governing Council today nominated one of its members - Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim who was prominent in the exiled opposition against Saddam Hussein - to become prime minister in the new government taking power June 30, members said.

The Iraqi Governing Council today nominated one of its members - Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim who was prominent in the exiled opposition against Saddam Hussein - to become prime minister in the new government taking power June 30, members said.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is consulting with various Iraqi groups to choose the new government. Brahimi's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said that the envoy "welcomes and respects the choice of Mr. Allawi."

"Mr. Brahimi respects this choice and very very soon, we will be discussing with the prime minister-designate the formation of the whole Cabinet," Fawzi said.

The chief US administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, was at today's council session and congratulated Allawi on his nomination, said Mustafa al-Marayati, an aide to council member Raja Habib al-Khuzaai.

"It is a done deal. Hameed al-Kafaei, the spokesman for the Governing Council, said. "He is a prime minister-designate."

The council also planned to nominate a president and two vice presidents.

Brahimi joined today's council session after Allawi's nomination was announced, al-Marayati said.

During his years in exile organising anti-Saddam opposition, Allawi had support from CIA and State Department officials who were wary of the Pentagon's favorite, Ahmad Chalabi.

Allawi's selection was due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, according to his aide, Ibrahim al-Janabi. He said the council members believed Allawi was in the best position to cope with the security crisis because his party, the Iraqi National Accord, is made up of former military officers who had defected from Saddam's regime. His relative, Ali Allawi, is Iraqi defence minister.

The final lineup of the government, which also includes 26 Cabinet ministers, is scheduled to be announced by Monday.

"The whole process is based on guidelines and recommendations made by" Brahimi, said al-Marayati.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the council's selection was simply part of a process which Brahimi was using to gauge the opinions of Iraqi groups and individuals on the choice.

"They have expressed their view earlier today on who they would like to see as the prime minister," Senor said. "A formal announcement will come presumably from Mr. Brahimi in the days ahead."

Al-Marayati said that the council took a break after selecting Allawi and then reconvened to choose a president and two vice presidents. Brahimi joined the reconvened session. The president, a figurehead post, is expected to go to a Sunni Arab. The two vice presidents will likely be a Shiite and a Kurd.

Allawi, a neurologist and businessman involved in the opposition since the 1970s, has long been seen as a rival of Chalabi, though they worked together in coordinating between anti-Saddam exile groups.

While living in London in 1978, Allawi survived an assassination attempt believed to have been ordered by Saddam.

The Iraqi National Accord, which Allawi founded along with former military officers, advocated a coup against Saddam but an attempt in 1996 failed.Nonetheless, Allawi continued to have strong support within the State Department, CIA and Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

After Saddam's ouster, US occupation officials gave Allawi as one of the 25 seats on the Governing Council. Over the past year, Allawi has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying in Washington to press his influence, more than any other council member.

Still, Chalabi had a much higher profile in Washington. He attended the State of the Union address as a guest in the box of first lady Laura Bush.But Chalabi, the favorite of the architects of the Iraq invasion at the Pentagon, fell out of favour in recent months after his information about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction was discredited.

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