Al-Jafari to Give Up Nomination for Iraqi Prime Minister
By Nelson Hernandez, Bassam Sebti and K.I. Ibrahim
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 20, 2006; 12:21 PM
BAGHDAD, April 20 -- Iraq's prime minister will give up his nomination for a new term as head of the country's new government, a senior member of his Shiite party announced, only a few hours before a long-delayed parliament meeting scheduled for Thursday was ultimately postponed by two more days.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari has "given up his bid and is ready to quit the candidacy in the best interest of the country," the second-highest ranking member of Jafari's Dawa Party, Jawad al-Maliki, said at a nationally televised news conference.
Only a day before, Jafari had said in a news conference that such a withdrawal was "out of the question."
Almost immediately after narrowly winning the nomination of a politically dominant coalition of Shiite parties in February, Jafari came under intense pressure to give up the fruits of his victory. While the Shiite alliance holds the most seats in Iraq's parliament, it is unable to form a government without the support of at least some of the country's Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.
But Sunnis, Kurds and secular parties frustrated with Jafari's leadership during the past year have unanimously demanded that the Shiite coalition choose another nominee. For months the political situation has been frozen as the rival coalitions have negotiated in interminable closed meetings, promising that the end is just around the corner.
In the void of leadership, Sunnis and Shiites have continued killing one another, to the growing frustration of U.S. officials and the Iraqi public. President Bush and Shiite religious authorities both have said in recent days that the Iraqi politicians must come up with a solution quickly.
"The absence of an effective national unity government is creating the conditions for the insurgency to do what it wants to do," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman, said at a news conference Thursday.
While praising Jafari's "fatherly stewardship" over the country, Maliki said that his withdrawal had resulted in a breakthrough. As Maliki continued to speak, it appeared that Jafari had not completely withdrawn his candidacy, but that he had simply allowed his party to reconsider his nomination.
"We hope to be able to arrive at a solution within one or two days," Maliki said.
In view of this, a parliament meeting scheduled for Thursday was postponed until Saturday, the parliament speaker announced at a news conference.
"I believe this adjournment will provide a chance to discuss the issues, and I believe we will succeed in coming to parliament on Saturday in order to form the national unity government which the Iraqi people are waiting for urgently," Adnan al-Pachachi, the parliament speaker, said.
Then representatives of each major faction -- the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis -- came up in succession to say the delay was for the best in the complex task of forming a government that allotted fair shares of power to each side.
"We shall return on Saturday and we hope all the names will be ready," said Hussein Shahristani, the spokesman for the Shiite alliance. "There will be one full, complete package on Saturday."
"The ball is now in the [Shiite] alliance's court," Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni political leader, said. "I hope they will deal with the matter in a conscientious way to help the country overcome the crisis."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company