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Iraqi Prime Minister Withdraws His Nomination for a New Term

By Kirk Semple 
and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BAGHDAD, IRAQ

Under intense domestic and American pressure, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari dropped his bid to retain his job on Thursday, removing a major obstacle to forming a new government during a time of rising sectarian violence.

Leaders from each of Iraq’s main factions, Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurd, publicly hailed the decision, calling it a breakthrough.

“I believe that we will succeed in forming the national unity government the people are waiting for,” Adnan Pachachi, the acting speaker of Parliament, said at a news conference, held at the Convention Center inside the fortified Green Zone.

But while al-Jaafari’s capitulation could indeed resolve the current stalemate, daunting political challenges lie ahead as leaders battle over remaining high-level posts and the government seeks to revive a moribund civil sector and restore confidence in public leadership.

Moreover, the likely candidates to replace al-Jaafari lack political stature, raising questions about whether they will be any more effective than he in leading a struggling government at a time of spiraling violence.

Shiite politicians have in recent days mentioned two possible replacements for al-Jaafari: Jawad al-Maliki, an outspoken and highly visible member of Parliament, and Ali al-Adeeb, a longtime party official and aide to al-Jaafari.

Al-Jaafari won the nomination in February by a single vote in a ballot among Shiite political leaders, in part because of support from Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric who controls the largest bloc of seats in the main alliance. But his nomination brought a groundswell of opposition among Sunni Arab, Kurdish, secular and even some Shiite politicians, who said he had failed to improve services or stem the violence.

Leaders of the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, met throughout the day to deliberate new nominees; as the largest bloc in Parliament, the alliance has the constitutional right to name the prime minister. Members said a meeting of the full membership — 130 representatives — had been called for Saturday as has a meeting of the 275-member Parliament.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, suggested at a joint news conference with other leaders that the opposition blocs would not oppose the Shiites’ next nominee.