Iraqi Prime Minister Says Resigning Is 'Out of the Question'

Iraqi politicians had predicted Ibrahim al-Jafari would yield to growing pressure and resign, opening the way for parliament to choose new leaders.
Iraqi politicians had predicted Ibrahim al-Jafari would yield to growing pressure and resign, opening the way for parliament to choose new leaders. (By Ceerwan Aziz -- Associated Press)
By Nelson Hernandez and K.I. Ibrahim
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 20, 2006

BAGHDAD, April 19 -- Iraq's prime minister denied rumors Wednesday that he would give up his nomination to another term to solve a political impasse, throwing the process of forming the country's new government into new confusion on the eve of a long-delayed meeting of parliament.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari said during a news conference broadcast on Iraqi state television that stepping down was "out of the question."

In February, Jafari narrowly won the nomination of the leading coalition of Shiite Muslim parties, giving him what appeared to be a guarantee of a four-year term at the head of Iraq's next government. Yet almost immediately, Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians, who said that Jafari had been a weak leader over the past year, united to oppose his nomination. They were joined by many Shiites who had supported a rival candidate.

Though the Shiite alliance has the largest number of seats in Iraq's parliament, it does not have enough votes to unilaterally push through Jafari's nomination. The result has been a political paralysis that has lasted for months as sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites has killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police officers.

For the last several days, politicians from the Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that make up the Iraqi political landscape have said that Jafari was on the brink of giving up his nomination to resolve the deadlock. But Jafari said Wednesday that "as a matter of principle, I think the idea of making a concession is, for me at least, out of the question."

"There has been no more progress," Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an aide to Jafari, said in a telephone interview. Kadhimi predicted that the impasse would be resolved on Thursday, when the parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time since March, although he gave no reason for optimism.

Parliament had been scheduled to meet Monday in the hopes of pushing the rival parties toward an agreement, but the session was postponed.

There has been mounting pressure on Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences, from the public, U.S. officials and the Shiite religious leadership, which issued a statement Tuesday night urging the Shiite parties to make a deal, even if concessions were necessary.

On Wednesday, President Bush asked the Iraqis to "step up and form a unity government so that those who went to the polls to vote recognize that a government will be in place to respond to their needs."

Meanwhile, violence continued to rattle the country. Numerous bombings and armed attacks in the capital and elsewhere in Iraq killed at least 46 people, according to police officials and news reports.

Fourteen of those who died were discovered bound and shot in the head in the town of Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of the capital, Baghdad police Lt. Col. Abdullah al-Dulaimi said.

A U.S. soldier died of his wounds after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb north of Baghdad on Tuesday, military authorities said in a statement.

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