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Deadlock Continues Over Choice for Interim Iraqi President - 2004-05-31

Iraqi, American and U.N. officials are deadlocked over who should be president in the interim Iraqi government that will take over the country June 30. Meanwhile, continuing violence claims more lives in Iraq, as President Bush honors American war dead.

The latest political stand-off in Iraq involves the Iraqi Governing Council on one side. U.S. and U.N. officials are on the other side.

Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led coalition administration, and Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N. envoy to Iraq, are said to favor Adnan Pachachi, who supports keeping foreign troops in Iraq until the security situation improves.

The council's choice is Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, who has been more critical of the U.S.-led occupation.

A Kurdish member of the Governing Council, Mahmoud Othman, accused the United States and the United Nations of interfering in the process of choosing Iraqi leaders. "Nobody has the right to make a government for Iraq, neither America nor Brahimi. We know how to make our own government," he said.

A meeting set for Monday to determine Iraq's president was postponed without explanation. Coalition spokesman Dan Senor rejected suggestions that the U.S.-led administration is trying to tell the Iraqi council what to do.

"We are certainly not in the position to control their schedule, when they meet and when they don't meet. So, Ambassador Bremer didn't call their meetings. Ambassador Bremer doesn't cancel their meetings," he said.

Mr. Senor also indicated that U.N. envoy Mr. Brahimi was responsible for naming the candidates in the interim Iraqi government. "I really would defer to Mr. Brahimi, who has indicated that in the days ahead, he will be in a position to make a formal announcement," he said.

Meanwhile, the violence in Iraq continues. A car bomb killed at least four people, mostly pedestrians, on a busy Baghdad roadway.

U.S. military spokesman General Mark Kimmitt says two U.S. soldiers who were killed in separate clashes outside of the southern Iraqi city of Kufa Monday were not the aggressors.

"These units were going through the town of Kufa, ensuring a safe and secure environment," he said. "They were not conducting specific offensive operations, targeting a certain objective, targeting a certain leader, targeting a certain person. So, no, they were just conducting reconnaissance at these two locations."

Fighting has continued in southern Iraq despite a cease-fire agreement last week.

Back in Washington, President Bush honored the American war dead on Memorial Day. Mr. Bush praised U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as part of the global war on terror that was launched following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear this country's uniform, in places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul and Baghdad. We have seen their decency and their brave spirit. Because of their fierce courage, America is safer," he said.

The president said the United States will always honor and remember those who lost their lives in war, whether long ago or recently.