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.
As Iraqi politicians discussed the future and citizens dealt with the consequences of a grim present, the tribunal trying former president Saddam Hussein attempted to reckon with the past.
Handwriting experts authenticated more documents linking Hussein to the killing of 148 people after an attempt on his life in 1982 in the town of Dujail, the chief judge at Hussein's trial said at a court session on Wednesday.
During the three-hour session, the judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, read the report of a three-member panel of handwriting experts who analyzed the writing on documents relating to the repression of Shiites in Dujail. After comparing notes and signatures on the documents with older handwriting samples, the experts concluded that the papers were authentic.
The specific contents of the documents were not discussed at the session, but they were papers that prosecutors had presented earlier in the trial. On Monday, prosecutors cited a document that authorized promotions for intelligence officers involved in the government crackdown in Dujail after the assassination attempt.
The chief judge said that the documents would be reanalyzed by a panel of five experts and that the court would reconvene on April 24. Meanwhile, defense attorneys and Hussein's seven co-defendants vehemently denied that the documents were authentic, charging, as they have throughout the trial, that the court was biased.
"The prosecutor is biased against us and is trying to use all means to condemn us," said Hussein's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim, who ran the government intelligence service.
Ibrahim went on in a lengthy speech: "I am not afraid of the punishment. I am afraid of having my reputation tarnished. Why would I kill 148 innocent victims? They were my countrymen. Why would I kill them?"
Special correspondents Omar Fekeiki and Bassam Sebti contributed to this report.