| A wounded security officer after the bomb blast in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Baghdad, June 1 (Reuters): Iraqi leaders cut a face-saving deal today with the US and UN on a President and government to lead the country out of occupation.
An 11th-hour compromise saw Washington’s choice of President make way for tribal chief Ghazi Yawar. He was then sworn in with an interim cabinet of technocrats in a televised ceremony rich in symbolism at a palace complex built by Saddam Hussein.
A car bomb that tore through the nearby offices of a Kurdish political party, killing and wounding several people, underlined the scale of the challenge the interim administration faces in organising Iraq’s first free elections in the new year.
Several rockets also landed around the US compound as officials were meeting, wounding one Iraqi. And a suicide car bomber killed 11 Iraqis outside a US base north of Baghdad.
Yawar called for the UN to give Iraq “full sovereignty” when the US-led occupation authority is wound up on June 30.
New Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Iraqis wanted an end to occupation and would expand their own army — but he welcomed US and European forces to defend Iraq in the meantime.
After two days of bitter confrontation, the US and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi finally accepted Yawar in the largely ceremonial role of head of state after their preferred candidate, elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, turned down the job.
But in return the Iraqi governing council agreed to dissolve itself with immediate effect and accepted a cabinet line-up that featured many fewer of its own members than it had wanted.
US President George W. Bush voiced unqualified support today for the leaders of Iraq’s newly formed interim government and his national security adviser said they were not “America's puppets.”
“All the new Prime Minister needs to know is that I look forward to a close relationship with him,” Bush said.
| Iraq’s new interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi cracks a joke during a ceremony in Baghdad as President Ghazi Yawar (in white headdress) and other government members laugh. (Reuters)
Brahimi, addressing Iraq’s new leaders, said it was the “first step on a road that will no doubt be long and difficult” and that Iraqis were looking forward to a fresh start and wanted to put the wars and hardships of the Saddam years behind them. The death toll was unclear in the bombing of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s Baghdad headquarters. A US officer said three people were confirmed killed and 20 wounded in the blast near the “Green Zone” compound where officials were gathered.
In a face-saving manoeuvre, the 22-member governing council initially dropped its objection to Pachachi. Then, within minutes, the 81-year-old former foreign minister renounced the post and Brahimi declared that Yawar would become head of state. Officials then announced that the council, whose members US officials had accused of trying to cling to power by claiming positions in the new government, was being wound up.
Allawi, the Shia former exile with close links to the CIA and whom the council nominated as Prime Minister on Friday, then announced a government that included only two council members. “Not everybody can be pleased in a democracy,” one senior US official in Baghdad said.
After a Sunni cleric chanted a recitation from the Quran offering advice on wise leadership, the new administration was sworn in at a building in the Green Zone compound. Barring Brahimi, there was not a foreign face to be seen on the podium.
Reflecting the balance among Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups, two vice-presidents — one a Shia, the other a Kurd — were appointed to serve under Yawar, who is from the long-dominant Sunni minority to which Saddam also belongs.