The U.S.-led occupation authority ordered Iraq's Governing Council on Monday to postpone a vote on nominating a president because the council's favored candidate is opposed by the authority, council members said. Some members angrily accused the occupation authority of attempting to impose a choice on them.
Most members want Ghazi Yawar, a U.S.-educated tribal sheik who holds the council's rotating presidency, to assume the largely symbolic presidency of the interim government that will take limited power on June 30. But the members said the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, favors another candidate, Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old former exile who served as foreign minister in the 1960s, before Saddam Hussein's Baath Party took power.
The council had planned to nominate Yawar at a meeting on Monday morning. But before the session began, Yawar told other members that he had been instructed by Bremer not to convene the meeting.
Council member Rajaa Habib Khuzai said Yawar told the council that he had been directed by Bremer: "Don't meet today."
A U.S. official said late Monday night that a ceremony had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Baghdad to announce the members of the interim government, which will consist of a president, two vice presidents, a prime minister and 26 cabinet members. It was not immediately clear whether the council would convene to nominate or endorse candidates before the announcement.
The decision to call off the meeting on Monday angered several members, who said the council should be allowed to nominate a candidate for president.
"The Americans are interfering," council member Mahmoud Othman said. "This should be our choice. This is an Iraqi affair."
Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, another member, told the Arab satellite television network al-Jazeera that members "won't accept names that come from outside the council."
The Bush administration has said it would allow U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to select the interim government, a task Brahimi has said he is performing through consultations with Iraqi leaders and the occupation authority. But council members insisted that Brahimi's role has been subordinated by U.S. officials who want a new government that is closely allied with Washington.
"The Americans are controlling the process," said a council member who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Brahimi's role seems to be diminishing. We don't hear from him. He seems to be under the Americans now."
The chief spokesman for the occupation authority, Daniel Senor, denied that there had been any interference in the selection of an interim government, calling the process "a U.N.-led initiative."
"One thing is certain. Iraq is now a free country, and many people will have views about who should lead the country during this interim period, and they will express those views," he said.
Brahimi had said he wanted to form an interim government made up largely of politically independent technocrats who would act as caretakers until national elections are held early next year, effectively minimizing the role of politicians from the council. Although the U.N. envoy had intended to consult with the council in shaping the new government, he did not intend to give it veto power over his selections -- a position supported by the Bush administration -- on the grounds that it lacks broad legitimacy in Iraq.
But over the past week, the council has sought to assert itself in the selection process. On Friday, Brahimi was compelled to endorse Shiite politician Ayad Allawi to be prime minister after he was nominated to the post by the council.
There were indications on Monday night that the impasse was ending. Brahimi and Bremer held a series of meetings with Allawi, Yawar and other Iraqi officials. Political sources said Pachachi, who had refused to withdraw his candidacy, was reconsidering that position.
Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim who lived in exile for more than three decades, has been one of the White House's favorite Iraqi politicians because of his moderate, pro-Western outlook and because of his pledges to abide by an interim constitution drafted earlier this year. The scion of a Baghdad political family, he dresses in Western suits and is well known in foreign capitals.
Yawar, a 45-year-old engineer with a master's degree from George Washington University, is also a Sunni who lived in exile. He is a leader of one of Iraq's largest tribes, the Shamar, whose members include many Shiites as well as Sunnis. Because of that, he has the strong backing of the council's Shiite majority. He also enjoys the support of the council's Kurdish members.
"We think he's a better fit for us," said Othman, a Sunni Kurd. "He's younger and he's tribal, which is an advantage."
Yawar, a stout man who wears traditional Arab robes, is regarded by council members as more independent than Pachachi and less supportive of American policies in Iraq. In a recent television interview, Yawar said: "We blame the United States 100 percent for the security in Iraq. They occupied the country, disbanded the security agencies and for 10 months left Iraq's borders open for anyone to come in without a visa or even a passport."