Sunday, February 12, 2006

AP update: Shiite lawmakers chose incumbent Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be Iraq's new prime minister Sunday even though his current government has been criticized for not dealing effectively with the Sunni-led insurgency or rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Kurdish leaders expressed concern over the Shiite choice, which marks a key step in forming a government nearly two months after national elections. Al-Jaafari is assured the post because Shiites won the most parliament seats in the Dec. 15 national elections. He won 64 votes in a caucus of Shiite legislators, one more than Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, officials said. There were two abstentions. After parliament convenes within two weeks, members must choose the largely ceremonial position of president, who then will designate the alliance's choice as the new prime minister. Al-Jaafari's designation paves the way for the Shiite alliance to begin talks in earnest with parties representing Sunni Arabs, Kurds, secularists and others to try to form a broad-based government, which the United States hopes can calm the insurgency so American and other foreign troops can begin withdrawing. "Today's victory is not that this one won or that one won, it's the victory of the alliance with its unity and cool head," al-Jaafari said after the vote. [...]