Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The members of the Iraqi Governing Council are proving to be tough negotiators, and it looks like the Bush Administration is going to have its hands full with the new president and prime minister.
Iraqi leaders forced Washington and the United Nations to back down on Tuesday on their choice of president to lead Iraq out of American occupation.

But the 11th-hour compromise that saw Washington's choice of head of state make way for tribal chief Ghazi Yawar, a critic of U.S. military tactics, ensured the president is surrounded by an interim cabinet laden with technocrats nominated by the U.N.

Yawar, 46, a U.S.-trained civil engineer with links to Saudi Arabia, has accused the U.S. military of provoking Iraqis.

He demanded that the United Nations give Iraq "full sovereignty" when the U.S.-led occupation authority is wound up on June 30. But 150,000 foreign soldiers, mostly Americans, are set to stay on for the foreseeable future to provide security.

He has also complained that the U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution that sets out the handover plan gives Iraqis too little control of oil revenues, and he wants more control over foreign troops than Washington is offering.

New Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a former exile with close ties to the CIA, also said Iraqis wanted an end to occupation and would expand their army -- but he expressed gratitude for U.S. and European forces defending Iraq meantime. His team has a month to settle in before replacing the U.S.-led authority.

After a two-day stand-off, the United States and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi accepted Yawar in the largely ceremonial role of head of state after their preferred candidate, elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, was formally offered the job and turned it down.

One Iraqi politician had complained of U.S. "dictatorship" though U.S. officials later denied trying to impose Pachachi.

It seemed at first like a clear win for the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which last week named Allawi as premier in a move that caught Brahimi and Washington off guard.

"There were a lot of rows this morning but everything settled down when Pachachi withdrew," Council member Rajaa Habib Khuzai told Reuters. "We think this has been a big victory for the Governing Council and for Iraqis themselves."