After weeks of struggling to choose a leader, Iraq’s U.S.-picked interim government named its first president on Wednesday -- a Shiite Muslim from a party banned by deposed President Saddam Hussein.
Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite and spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party, was picked to be the first of nine men who will serve one-month stints leading postwar Iraq. He will hold the presidency in August.
Selecting a president had been a contentious issue as ethnic and political groups wrestled for a share of power. In the end, the 25-member governing council decided to rotate the presidency among the nine members chosen Tuesday. Presidential power will be limited to minor administrative tasks and chairing council meetings.
The council will control spending and set in place the mechanism for writing a new constitution. A council source said a Cabinet will be named soon.
Members of the council met with World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, who said his institution must first decide what constitutes a legally recognized government before it can lend money to Iraq for reconstruction.
After the council met in Baghdad’s Convention Center, a member lashed out at Arab League chief Amr Moussa for failing to recognize the interim government’s authority. He said the council would not send representatives to the Cairo, Egypt-based organization.
“We don’t want to go where we are not welcome,” council member Nasir Chaderchi, a Sunni Muslim lawyer and businessman who leads the National Democratic Party, told Al Jazeera, the Arab-language satellite TV channel.
The council decision came a day after an audiotape attributed to Saddam Hussein said it was “good news” that his sons, Uday and Qusai, were killed in a July 22 shootout with U.S. soldiers because they now were martyrs.
The tape appeared to erase any remaining doubt among Iraqis that the feared brothers were dead. A CIA official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity that the tape appeared to be authentic.
In Tikrit, the American military continued questioning suspects and poring over documents and photo albums seized in a Tuesday raid, looking for clues to Hussein’s whereabouts.
Soldiers interrogated one of his main bodyguards, his Tikrit security chief and a militia leader, who is believed to be behind attacks on U.S. troops, Maj. Bryan Luke said. The captives were not helpful, he said.