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Iraqi Interim President Pledges Unity, Security - 2004-06-01


In Baghdad, U.N. Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has introduced Iraq's new interim leadership that will take power at the end of the month. The announcement had been delayed a day by disputes over the presidency. After naming the new 36-member interim administration, the Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself.

The newly-named president of the interim administration Sheikh Ghazi al Yawar pledges to put Iraq's unity and security above all else.

"My pledge to you is to put every effort with my brothers and my colleagues to bring back Iraq and to shun all forms of discrimination and weakness so this country would be one nation without murderers, without criminals, without bad ambitions," he said.

U.N. and U.S. officials had favored former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi for the mostly ceremonial job. But in a last-minute show of power, the U.S. appointed Governing Council defied U.S. and U.N. recommendations and named Sheikh Ghazi, a Sunni Muslim, as Iraq's president during the transition.

Last week the council rejected U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's recommendations and endorsed another council member Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim, for the position of prime minister.

Top government positions have been distributed among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish Iraqi politicians to reflect the country's demographic divide. Six women also have been named to cabinet positions.

Speaking at the White House, President Bush has welcomed the formation of the interim government, calling it a positive step forward.

"The naming of the new interim one step closer to realizing the dream of millions of iraqis, a fully sovereign nation with a representative government that protects their rights and serves their needs," he said.

President Bush is trying to round up support in the U.N. Security Council for a resolution endorsing the new government and the authority it will have until elections are held, no later than January of next year.

One of the top demands on Iraq's new government will be security.

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice expects radicals opposed to the American presence in Iraq step up their attacks as the transition takes hold.

"As this political vision now plays out with Iraqis in control of it, the hope is the violence will eventually begin to subside," said Ms. Rice. "But I want to be very clear. I think in the short term you could see more violence, because these are people who know they have no place in the future Iraq."

U.S. military leaders say Iraq's forces are not yet ready to take full command of security and expect the U.S.-led coalition forces to continue operations in Iraq. The U.N. Security Council this week is debating how its resolution will define how much authority Iraq's interim government will have over the multinational forces after the June 30 handover.

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