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Iraq Governing Council chooses leader
BAGHDAD — A Shiite Muslim member of a political party banned by Saddam Hussein was chosen Wednesday to be the first leader of Iraq's U.S.-picked interim government, serving a one-month term that will be rotated among eight other faction leaders.
The Iraq Governing Council, meeting in Baghdad's Convention Center, also lashed out at Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa for failing to recognize the interim government's authority.
Who would lead the 25-member council had been a contentious issue as ethnic and political groups wrestled for a share of power. In the end, the interim government decided to rotate the presidency alphabetically among nine members.
The council will name cabinet members, control spending and set in place the mechanism for writing a new Iraqi constitution.
Members of the nine-member presidency were announced Tuesday. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, chief spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party, will serve as council president for August. He will be followed by Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite and leader of the Iraqi National Congress.
The council began functioning July 13 and said its first order of business would be to select a president. But, unable to agree on putting that much power in the hands of any one member, council sources said, it decided Tuesday to share the responsibility.
"The council is made up of different political parties, with different agendas, different ethnic groups. There was no agreement among the members as to the agenda of any one party or among the varying ethnic groups," said Adel Nouri, a senior member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union Party.
The chief U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, attended the council session Wednesday, a day after returning from Washington for consultations.
In hitting back at Amr Moussa, the Arab League leader, the council said it would not send representatives to the Cairo-based organization, the region's most important political body.
"We don't want to go where we are not welcome," council member Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi told Qatar's al-Jazeera television.
In Cairo, Egypt, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef said he would have no comment. Moussa was out of the country.
Tuesday, an audiotape attributed to Saddam said it was "good news" that his sons Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed in a July 22 shootout with U.S. forces because they were martyrs. The tape appeared to erase any remaining doubt among Iraqis that the feared brothers were dead.
The CIA has determined that the message most likely is authentic, a CIA official said yesterday.
During an overnight patrol early yesterday in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, U.S. forces came across a black flag strung up in front of a local government building. The writing mourned the passing of Odai and Qusai.
After asking his translator to read the gold and white lettering to him, Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who is leading the raids in Tikrit, told one of his men to cut it down and hand it to him. Russell crumpled it in his hands before taking it away.
In northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said they found evidence that non-Iraqi fighters are among guerrillas attacking Americans. The officials said on condition of anonymity they were finding rocket-propelled grenades wired to timers, a weapon used against coalition forces by insurgents in Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization and remnants of the Taliban are believed responsible for the continued attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, Geo-TV broadcast an interview with Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in which he raised U.S. concerns about foreign fighters among the insurgency in Iraq.
"Certainly we know that there are foreign fighters that have flowed in through Syria, and in fact, 80 of them were engaged several weeks ago in a training camp, and they were not Iraqis," Myers said.
But it was unclear what role the foreigners were playing in the insurgency that has killed 49 American soldiers since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over.
The American military, meanwhile, continued questioning suspects and poring over documents and photo albums seized in Tikrit Tuesday, looking for clues to Saddam's whereabouts.
Soldiers interrogated one of Saddam's main bodyguards, his Tikrit security chief and a militia leader, believed to be behind attacks on U.S. troops, Maj. Bryan Luke said. The captives were not forthcoming.
"Every time we ask them a question, we get a different answer," Luke said. "They're not cooperating."
Iraqi news media reported yesterday the former president of Baghdad University, Mohammed al-Rawi, was killed Sunday by two men who stormed into the office where he conducted a private medical practice. Al-Rawi was a leading member of Saddam's Baath Party and resigned his university post after Baghdad fell April 9. His killing was seen as one in a series of revenge attacks against high-level Baathists.
The Associated Press