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Party picks son to replace powerful Iraqi Shi'ite

world Updated: Aug 31, 2009 20:04 IST
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Senior members of one of Iraq's main Shi'ite Muslim parties nominated the son of former party leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on Monday to take over after his death, a choice that must now be voted on.

Hakim, 59, died last Wednesday in Tehran where he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer. The cleric was buried over the weekend in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf.

His death has cast fresh uncertainty over Iraqi politics at a time when alliances between Iraqi Shi'ites are shifting.

His son Ammar al-Hakim has been groomed for some time to take over the powerful Supreme Islamic Council (ISCI). Although no other candidate is in the running, Ammar may yet face internal leadership challenges.

Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organisation, the armed wing of ISCI, said senior members of the party had agreed on Hakim but the party's wider advisory council still had to vote on the nomination for it to come into effect.

"Today, the decision making council met and all members decided to nominate Ammar al-Hakim to be the next president of ISCI in the coming period," Amiri told Reuters.

"Tomorrow the (broader) advisory council will hold a meeting to vote on this nomination," he said.

ISCI said last week it would lead a new, mostly Shi'ite alliance to compete in January's national polls without Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's small Dawa party, raising questions about possible fractures amongst Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

ISCI was founded in Iran in exile during Iraqi Sunni leader Saddam Hussein's rule. It has close ties to Iran's rulers.

ISCI and Maliki's Dawa party swept to power in 2005 polls as part of a broad Shi'ite coalition, but over the past year wrangling over alliances has worsened.