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Iraqi Governing Council Chooses Leader, at Last (REUTERS) By Huda Majeed Saleh BAGHDAD, IRAQ 07/30/03 12:27 PM ET)Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3188323 Reuters News Service Reuters News Service Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq´s U.S-backed Governing Council named a Shi´ite politician as its first leader on Wednesday, after adopting a rotating presidency that will give representatives of all major groups a turn at being in charge.

Ibrahim Jaafari, a medical doctor who is the spokesman of the Shi´ite Da´wa party, was chosen as the first president of the self-rule body.

After more than two weeks of laborious discussion, the Governing Council of 25 Iraqis decided Tuesday that nine of its members -- drawn from various religious, ethnic and political factions -- would take turns at being president.

Each will serve for a month. Jaafari will be followed by Iraqi National Congress head Ahmed Chalabi.

Others who will get a turn at leading the council are Abdul Aziz al- Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI); Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani; Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord; Muhsin Abdul Hameed of the Iraqi Islamic Party; Shi´ite scholar Muhammed Bahr al-Uloum, and former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi.

"The principle of a monthly rotating presidency was adopted to give a chance to the nine members," Jaafari told Reuters. "It will end, God willing, as soon as possible when the occupation ends and Iraq achieves political independence."

One of the council´s tasks is to select ministers to work alongside U.S. officials.

"We will start discussing ministers next week and we hope it will not take a long time to resolve," Jaafari said.

Members of the council have insisted the choice of a rotating president and the delay in reaching a decision are not signs that the council is divided.

"There are no disputes over this issue. It is a reasonable and logical decision," SCIRI´s Hakim said Wednesday.

The United States has hailed the council, which first met on July 13, as Iraq´s first step toward democracy since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in April.

Although it has some limited powers, final control of Iraq still rests with U.S. civilian administrator Paul Bremer.

Choosing a leader was one of the first tasks of the council, which is also supposed approve next year´s budget and decide policy on economic reform and electoral laws.

Hakim said he hoped it would not take long to work out a permanent constitution and hold a referendum to approve it ahead of elections for a fully sovereign Iraqi government that could take over from the widely resented U.S.-led occupation.

"We hope that the transitional period will be as short as possible because we do not want the occupation and we want to achieve Iraq´s independence as soon as possible," he said. (© Reuters 2003 07/30/03)

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