BAGHDAD, Feb. 22 -- Ibrahim Jafari, Iraq's interim vice president, moved a step closer Tuesday to leading the country's next government when a Shiite Muslim coalition nominated him to be prime minister.
Jafari, 58, a soft-spoken former exile who leads the religious Dawa party, was competing with Ahmed Chalabi, a former U.S. ally who heads the Iraqi National Congress party, for the nomination of the United Iraqi Alliance, a predominantly Shiite slate that won a slim majority of seats in the new parliament elected Jan. 30. On Tuesday, Chalabi withdrew his bid, paving the way for Jafari.
Ibrahim Jafari, 58, is a physician, former exile and leader of the Dawa party.
Iraq War Deaths|
Total number of U.S. military deaths and names of the U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war as announced by the Pentagon yesterday:
In hostile actions: 1,126
In non-hostile actions: 350
Spec. Katrina L. Bell-Johnson, 32, of Orangeburg, S.C.; Army 418th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, based at Fort Hood, Tex. Died Feb. 16 in Baqubah in a noncombat vehicle incident.
Staff Sgt. Jason R. Hendrix, 28, of Claremore, Okla.; 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Camp Hovey, South Korea. Killed Feb. 16 in Ramadi.
Sgt. Timothy R. Osbey, 34;
Spec. Joseph A Rahaim, 22;
Both soldiers of Magnolia, Miss.; Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 155th Regiment (Mechanized), based in McComb, Miss. The soldiers died Feb. 16 in Iskandariyah in a noncombat vehicle incident.
Sgt. Christopher M. Pusateri, 21, of Corning, N.Y.; 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed Feb. 16 in Mosul.
Sgt. Frank B. Hernandez, 21, of Phoenix; 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. Killed Feb. 17 in Tall Afar.
Sgt. Carlos J. Gil, 30, of Orlando; 377th Transportation Company, 181st Transportation Battalion, based in Mannheim, Germany. Killed Feb. 18 in Humaniyuh.
Cpl. Kevin M. Clarke, 21, of Tinley Park, Ill.; 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Killed Feb. 19 in Anbar province.
Spec. Clinton R. Gertson, 26, of Houston; 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. Killed Feb. 19 in Mosul.
1st Lt. Adam Malson, 23, of Rochester Hills, Mich.; 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Drum, N.Y. Killed Feb. 19 in Baghdad.
Spec. Seth R. Trahan, 20, of Crowley, La.; Army National Guard 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, based in Crowley. Killed Feb. 19 in Baghdad.
All troops were killed in action unless otherwise indicated.
Total fatalities include four civilian employees of the Defense Department.
A full list of casualties is available online at www.washingtonpost.com/nation
SOURCE: Defense Department's www.defenselink.mil/news
The Washington Post
The coalition, which has the tacit support of Iraq's most influential religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, holds 140 seats in the new 275-member National Assembly. When the assembly meets, one of its first tasks will be to choose a president and two deputy presidents, who will then name a prime minister.
Jafari's nomination does not, however, ensure his selection. The current interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, announced on Monday that he also was a candidate, even though his slate won only 40 seats in parliament with 14 percent of the vote.
In recent days, Sunni Muslim parties -- which largely boycotted the election and have scant representation in the new legislature -- have offered their endorsement to Allawi, a secular Shiite, saying they feared Jafari's religious leanings. In addition, Chalabi's supporters could split with the rest of the Shiite coalition and throw their support behind Allawi.
A coalition of ethnic Kurdish parties, the second-largest bloc in parliament with 75 seats, also will have a significant say in who gets the top post. While its leaders have voiced reservations about Jafari, the Kurds have so far indicated they would back the Shiites' nominee if the Shiites supported Jalal Talabani, head of a major Kurdish political party, for the largely symbolic post of president.
Sattar Bayer, a member of the executive committee of Allawi's party, the Iraqi National Accord, said Tuesday that "the situation will develop further within the next few days, because talks and discussions are still going on among all factions, parties and groups."
Winning the Shiite bloc's nomination was a major political and personal victory for Jafari, a physician who emerged as a surprise front-runner in recent weeks. His Dawa party has long advocated a religious government, but in a recent interview, Jafari said the party would accommodate secular and non-Muslim Iraqis. And at a news conference on Tuesday to announce his nomination, Jafari said he would reach out to all Iraqis, including Sunni groups that boycotted the election.
"We will negotiate . . . but we differentiate between those who boycotted the elections and those who fought against the elections," he said. "We respect the different attitudes, and we believe we have the responsibility to bridge the gap with those people so they can participate in the new Iraq."
Chalabi, who sat next to Jafari at the news conference, said he withdrew his bid "for the unity of the alliance."
"The future of Iraq is much more important," he said. "There is room for everyone."
One of the biggest issues confronting the transitional government, which is to hold power for 11 months, is security, as Iraq remains beset by a violent insurgency.
On Monday afternoon, a suicide bomber struck at the headquarters of the Interior Ministry's Rangers Battalion in the Qadisiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, killing at least two and wounding seven, according to hospital officials. Witnesses said the attacker drove his car into a crowd of volunteers and trainees who had assembled at the gate after finishing a drill.
"This is the third or fourth time bombers attack crowds or volunteers gathered here. Why can't they do something about this?" complained Ahmad Soufy, 25, a graduate student at Baghdad University.