The top U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq on Sunday ordered the Iraqi Governing Council to delay nominating a president for a caretaker government that will take power at the end of June.
L. Paul Bremer III, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority, personally intervened when the council was on the verge of holding a vote to ratify its choice, Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a young tribal leader critical of the U.S.-led occupation.
Bremer and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi support former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi for the largely ceremonial post and apparently did not want the council to hand them a potential fait accompli.
“Bremer came in and read them the riot act,” a Governing Council aide said.
Ala Hashimi, a member of the Dawa Party who was at Sunday’s meeting, said, “Bremer interfered and postponed the vote until tomorrow.”
Bremer and Brahimi have been trying to exert control over an unwieldy process in which individuals and parties represented in the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council have been jostling for posts. The process has sparked a constant shuffling of candidates as leaders of various groups try to get the best deal for themselves and their constituents.
Council members asserted themselves Friday by presenting Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim and former Baath Party member with close ties to the CIA, as their unanimous choice for prime minister. However, interviews with a number of players involved suggested the decision was made by the Americans working with a smaller group of council members. Brahimi, who appeared to be less than enthusiastic about the choice, was said to be surprised by the turn of events.
Occupation authorities denied Sunday that they were applying pressure to the Governing Council. “We have not been leaning on anybody to support one president over another,” said Dan Senor, a spokesman for the coalition. “Under international law, we have the ultimate authority for what happens in Iraq. We are the occupational power.”
Despite the disagreements between Bremer and the council, it appeared possible that a government could be named as early as today.
The council will be dissolved after members of the caretaker government are announced. Although the new government will not take power until June 30, it will be expected to help decide key issues such as the status of U.S. troops in Iraq and plans for renegotiating the nation’s debt.
Some members of the Governing Council are expected to be in the new government, and they will move their offices from a secure U.S. compound to ministries elsewhere in Baghdad.
Bremer and Brahimi ordered the council to delay choosing a president because they insisted on Pachachi, according to council members. Many other posts were undecided late Sunday, including the two posts for vice president. It appeared probable that one would go to a Shiite and one to a Kurd. But it was not clear which Shiite party would get the post.
Pachachi’s staff has been emphasizing his background as a foreign minister and his ability to negotiate complex issues such as the rescheduling of debt. It is not clear whether Pachachi would take the job if it was offered.
Council members said they would meet today to decide on other nominations, but they said they were frustrated by Bremer’s stance.
“The [Coalition Provisional Authority] and Mr. Bremer are pressuring us not to use our hearts,” said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member. “If they insist on this, it will be very bad for the credibility of the U.S. They have no right to impose these things on Iraqis.”
Officials with the coalition authority and the Governing Council said Pachachi and Yawer were equally capable of performing presidential duties, though the two men cut different images.
Pachachi, an 81-year-old former exile, is often seen wearing a suit, while Yawer wears traditional Arab robes and headdresses.