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Iraqi Political Maneuvering Continues Amidst Insurgency


Iraq's interim prime minister says he is forming a coalition to hold on to his job and the Shi'ite political party that took the most seats in last month's elections has named its own candidate.

New political battles are brewing in Iraq, even as the insurgency continues in the streets.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced he is forming his own coalition to challenge Ibrahim al-Jaafari for the prime minister's job. Mr. Al-Jaafari is one of the interim government's two vice presidents and head of the conservative Shi'ite Muslim party, Dawa.

The party won the most seats in the January elections, but still needs support from other electoral groups if it hopes to place Mr. Al-Jaafari in the prime minister's chair. Dawa has a more forthright religious orientation, while Mr. Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, is secular in tone. The minority Sunnis, in large part, boycotted the elections.

David Mack, a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq and vice president of the Middle East Institute, says Mr. Allawi is trying to improve his bargaining position over issues like cabinet posts.

"Prime Minister Allawi is, I believe, trying to position himself for bargaining with Prime Minister-designate Jaafar,” said Mr. Mack. “And obviously his position to bargain is enhanced if he has not dropped out of the game."

Analysts say that puts the Kurds in the position of being a dealmaker. Rosch Noori Shaways, a Kurdish leader and the other vice president, says he is talking with Mr. Al-Jaafari about who might assume the largely ceremonial post of president, but adds that the Kurds have not yet decided who to back for prime minister.

"As a man I work with him [al-Jaafari], but to decide who will be the prime minister of Iraq, this still needs time, this needs the agreement of all components of the Iraqi people," he said.

Mr. Mack says Iraq's fledgling politicians are just beginning to find their way.

"I think it is a little premature to say the parties are coalescing,” added Mr. Mack. “But I think it is correct to say we are in a period in which they are trying to find a political expression for a range of attitudes toward government and the role of government in society. And the most cohesive of these groups are the Kurds."

Meanwhile, one American soldier and two Iraqis were reported to have been killed in separate attacks in northern Iraq. U.S. military officials say the soldier was killed in a roadside bombing about 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, while the two civilians died in a car bomb blast in Mosul. Fourteen others were wounded.

In Germany, a court-martial found two British soldiers guilty of mistreating Iraqi civilians near Basra in 2003. A third British soldier had previously pleaded guilty to assault in the case. The three were charged after photographs of the mistreatment of alleged looters surfaced.

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