Talabani's election by lawmakers Wednesday makes him the first member of Iraq's long-oppressed minority to fill the presidency and the highest-ranking Iraqi Kurd in a half-century.
Talabani and his two vice presidents have veto authority and other powers, although their duties are largely ceremonial. Their first job Thursday was naming Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite former opposition leader, as prime minister.
Jalal Talabani spoke on first day of work as president.
(Akram Saleh - Reuters)
Jafari's appointment sealed one of the myriad deals by which Iraqi politicians are doling out posts in an intended national-unity government meant to bring together the Shiite majority, Kurds, Sunni Muslims and secularists.
Negotiators met with former interim president Ayad Allawi on Sunday in an effort to bring his 40-seat secular bloc into the governing coalition, said the interim deputy prime minister, Barham Salih.
Kurds and other secular politicians hope that the inclusion of Allawi's group would offset any religious tilt by Shiite lawmakers, who won the largest share of seats in the 275-seat parliament.
Talabani said Sunday that he would oppose any move to substitute Islamic law for the current civil code on marriage, divorce, inheritance and other family matters. He said he welcomed the influence Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, had had on building the government so far, including drawing out the Shiite vote.
Talabani also said he thought any renewed effort by the new government to remove members of Hussein's Baath Party from the government and military should spare the hundreds of thousands who committed no crime or abuses.
But the new government cannot ignore the suffering of the victims of Hussein's Baath-led institutions, particularly Shiites and Kurds, he said.
"They were poisoned and they were massacred. There are hundreds of thousands of victims from these two groups," he said. "Of course these people are hating very much Saddam's Baathists. We must also take into consideration the desire of these people in dealing with these criminals.''