Iraqi Caretaker Government Takes Temporary Authority
Explosion Shakes Green Zone Just After Announcement of New President
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 1, 2004; 12:32 PM
BAGHDAD, June 1 -- A new caretaker government, carefully apportioned among Iraq's religious and ethnic groups, assumed temporary authority from the Iraqi Governing Council Tuesday after a month of wrangling.
The U.S.-appointed council then dissolved itself. Before it did, however, it managed to get many of its choices installed in office.
Ghazi Yawar, a U.S. educated tribal sheik and council member, was chosen as the president of the interim government after the U.S. favorite, Adnan Pachachi, turned down the job because he lacked support from council members. The presidency is supposed to be a symbolic or ceremonial office.
The actual political leader of the government will be the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. Tuesday Allawi appointed the cabinet that will oversee the transition to what President Bush has called "full sovereignty" on June 30.
"We're grateful to the national alliance led by the Americans who have sacrificed so much to liberate us," Allawi declared at a ceremony where he introduced his cabinet.
President Bush, who took the good news as a cue for a rare and expansive impromptu news conference in the White House Rose Garden, expressed satisfaction with the makeup of the interim government. He noted that the cabinet includes six women and a number of regional Iraqi leaders.
Tuesday's development, the president said, was "a major step toward the emergence of a free Iraq. This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people and the American people." Bush said he was particularly grateful that Allawi, at the ceremony, publicly thanked the United States for liberating his country.
Ominously, an explosion and gunfire shook the Convention Center within the protected Coalition Provisional Authority Green Zone just after the announcement of the new president was made by U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been overseeing the selection process. American troops flooded the area and fighter jets streaked overhead. Wire services reported an attack, with three fatalities, on the headquarters of a Kurdish party near the entrance to the Green Zone.
Also on Tuesday, a suicide car bomber killed 11 Iraqis outside a U.S. base near Baiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad.
"The first request of the people is safety and security," said Brahimi, who could hear and feel the blast near the Green Zone. "But security and stability will not be achieved with weapons alone. The country is in dire need of real political action to bridge the division that was caused by the previous regime," he said at a ceremony officially unveiling the new government.
"Give them a chance. Help them. Judge them after looking at their progress and the actions they take," he said.
A step-by-step conversion to self-government now confronts Iraq.
Under the current plan, the caretaker government will convene an assembly of a thousand people next month. The assembly, in turn, will choose a national council of 100 members that will help oversee the government and exercise veto power over the cabinet council of ministers.
The process is ultimately designed to lead to an election and the formation of a permanent government for Iraq. Analysts universally believe that the caretaker government's success will be determined in part by the extent to which the Iraqi people believe it to be legitimate rather than a U.S. tool. It is also likely to confront an intensification of violence during the transition, U.S. officials believe, that will severely test its stability.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company