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Shi'ites may nominate Abdul Mahdi as Iraq PM

Iraq's ruling Shi'ite alliance is expected to nominate Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi for prime minister of the first full-term Govt.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 14:36 IST

Iraq's ruling Shi'ite alliance is expected to nominate Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi for prime minister of the first full-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a senior alliance official said on Saturday.

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) will hold talks on Saturday and Abdul Mahdi is expected to emerge as the candidate likely to get the top job in the next government.

"Abdul Mahdi is the favoured candidate. We will meet this morning to decide," said the alliance official.

As the party with the biggest bloc in parliament after winning 128 of the 275 seats, the alliance will be asked by the next president to name a prime minister, to be approved by a simple parliamentary majority, under the Iraqi constitution.

Abdul Mahdi, a former finance minister, is a top official in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a group, which was exiled in Iran and is now headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, seen as the most powerful man in the alliance.

If Abdul Mahdi is confirmed as the alliance's choice, it could alleviate concerns over the formation of a new government.

Formal negotiations have not started nearly two months after December 15 elections and judging by talks after last January's election, the process could take months in a country, which has grown tired of political squabbling as violence rages.

The official said the alliance still faces obstacles, mainly finding a job for current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose Dawa party heads the alliance along with the SCIRI.

Jaafari's critics say he has failed in the fight against an insurgency. Arab Sunnis accuse his Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry of sanctioning death squads, a charge his government denies.

The battered economy of a major oil producer shows no signs of recovering from a Sunni guerrilla campaign that has killed many thousands of Iraqi security forces and civilians.

Two other candidates, Nadim al-Jabery of the Fadhila party and former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, say they are willing to drop out of the alliance race on condition they get posts such as vice president, said the official.

Abdul Mahdi, an economist who studied in Paris, has earned a reputation as a pragmatic consensus builder who has skilfully helped Iraq's politicians overcome heated issues.

Whether he could display the charisma that Iraqis say Jaafari lacks is an open question.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 14:36 IST