Former Exile Is Selected As Interim Iraqi Leader
"Ghazi nominated him and said, 'We have this name and I want to vote on it,' " said Rajaa Habib Khuzai, a Shiite member of the council. "Nobody said anything. We just raised our hands."
Three of the council's 23 members were absent for the vote, including Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. Allawi's Iraqi National Accord is a longtime rival of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group once favored by the Pentagon. The Iraqi National Accord enjoyed support from both the CIA and the State Department in efforts through the 1990s to overthrow Hussein.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the United Nations had not expected the Governing Council to make the announcement, "but the Iraqis seem to agree on this candidate," he said. "And if they do, Mr. Brahimi is ready to work with this candidate. If this is the Iraqi way, he's ready to go with it and work with it and try to complete the process by the end of the month."
Khuzai and other council members praised Allawi, noting his role as the chairman of the council's security committee. "He's the best man for this very critical period that we are in," said Khuzai, who attended medical school in Baghdad with Allawi in the 1960s.
Ahmed Shyaa Barak, another Shiite member, acknowledged that Allawi lacked wide public support, but he said other skills made him the right person for the job. "Dr. Allawi has good connections with the British and American governments, and that will be important for us," Barak said.
A half-hour after the council's vote, Bremer entered the council chambers and congratulated Allawi. An hour later, Brahimi came in and also congratulated him.
In a statement issued by the United Nations, a spokesman for Brahimi said the envoy "is perfectly comfortable with how the process is proceeding thus far."
Allawi, who made no public comments, is a member of a prominent Shiite merchant family. He joined the Baath Party as a young man and organized party meetings at his medical school. He left Baghdad for advanced medical studies in London in 1971, eventually becoming a neurologist.
He resigned from the party in 1975 while in London, but Hussein tried to lure him back with threats and bribes. When he refused and subsequently struck up a relationship with the British intelligence service, he was reportedly placed on a liquidation list by Hussein.
Iraqi secret police were sent to assassinate Allawi in London in 1978, bursting into his bedroom and hacking him with an ax. He suffered serious injuries and spent nearly a year in a hospital. He continues to walk with a limp because of injuries to his leg suffered in the attack.
In 1979, he began organizing an anti-Hussein network, which became the Iraqi National Accord in 1990. As leader of the INA, he was embraced by Britain and the United States. In 1996, he worked with the CIA to plot a coup that was to involve Iraqi army generals toppling Hussein. But the Iraqi leader penetrated the plot and arrested and executed many of its operatives.
Allawi returned to Baghdad shortly after Hussein's government fell in April 2003, running his party from an abandoned Baath Party office. Many members of his party are former military officers, and he has advocated a greater role for former soldiers in the country's new security services.
A U.N. official said Allawi would work with Bremer and Brahimi to select 25 cabinet members over the next few days. The U.N. envoy and U.S. officials also must select a president and two vice presidents.
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