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Arabs Welcome Ghazi al-Yawar as Interim Iraqi President - 2004-06-01

Arab observers reacted positively to the appointment of Ghazi al-Yawar as Iraq's interim president. They say Mr. al-Yawar is a well-respected with connections in Iraq's neighborhood. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, called Ghazi al-Yawar an outstanding man who is one of the Iraq's political personalities with a distinguished past. He said the selection of Mr. al-Yawar represents the joint will of the Iraqi Governing Council.

According to the head of the political science department at Cairo University, Hassan Nafae, Mr. al-Yawar is well known in the Arab world and has strong connections in neighboring countries.

"He belongs to a very extensive tribe and he has certain influences among the Iraqi tribes," said Mr. Nafae. "His own tribe, also, has links with similar tribes in Jordan, even Syria, in the Gulf states and so on. So, he could be useful to stabilize, if he has a chance, the relationship between Iraq and the neighboring countries."

However, Mr. Nafae says more important than dealing with Iraq's neighbors, the new Iraqi president will have to show he can help reduce violence in the country.

The head of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, Sami Baroudi, says he agrees. And he says there is hope the new Iraqi leader will be strong enough to unite the country.

"There is sort of hope that there will be a strong man who emerges in Iraq,"he said. "I mean, there is this belief basically that you cannot really govern an Arab country without a strong man. So there is sort of this hope that there will be a person, hopefully not as ruthless as Saddam Hussein, but who sort of is able to unite the country again."

And while Mr. Baroudi says there is likely to be general Arab criticism that the new president of Iraq was not elected by Iraqis, he says at the end of the day, it might not really matter.

"Someone can prove his credit-worthiness without being an elected official," added Mr. Baroudi. "And how you govern is as important as how did you reach your position."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher declined to comment specifically on the presidential appointment, but said the region expects that there will be an Iraqi government, which represents the Iraqi people and enjoys full sovereignty. He said the Arab world will wait and see.

The key role of the interim government in Iraq will be to prepare the country for general elections by early next year.