BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's Governing Council met Sunday to try to finalize the makeup of the new government to take power June 30, with the post of figurehead president emerging as the main stumbling block to an agreement.
A council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer (search), and special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search) were exerting "massive pressure" to choose former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi (search).
However, the council member said most of the 22 members favored the current head of the council, civil engineer Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer. Both are Sunni Arab Muslims.
According to the council member, Bremer and Brahimi were urging the Governing Council not to take a vote on the issue but to declare support for Pachachi by acclamation.
"They are interfering with the work of the Governing Council and we are not going to succumb to this," the council member said.
Other members and officials familiar with the deliberations confirmed that the selection of a new president was the main stumbling block to a deal. Brahimi hopes to complete selection of a new government by Monday or Tuesday.
The prime minister's post, the top job in the new interim government, went Friday to a Shiite Muslim and close ties to the Americans Iyad Allawi.
Al-Yawer is a member of one of the largest tribes in the region and has the support of Shiites and Kurds on the U.S.-appointed council. The elderly Pachachi fled to the United Arab Emirates after the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein seized power and is well-connected within the United States and United Nations.
During a recent television interview, al-Yawer, who routinely wears traditional Arab robes and head gear, was sharply critical of the American occupation, blaming U.S. ineptness for the deteriorating law and order.
"We blame the United States 100 percent for the security in Iraq," al-Yawer said. "They occupied the country, disbanded the security agencies and for 10 months left Iraq's borders open for anyone to come in without a visa or even a passport.
Al-Yawer urged Iraqis to come together so they can tell the Americans to go home. However, he has also denounced violence against American and other coalition forces.
"We should resist (the occupation) with our thoughts, our positions and political work and that is the best way. Violence breeds violence." he said.
On the other hand, Pachachi, who favors smart business suits, has said foreign troops must remain in Iraq until the security situation has stabilized and the army and police are fully prepared to protect the nation.
Council sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said agreement has been reached on a substantial number of the 26 Cabinet posts. However, there is no deal until agreement had been reached on the entire lineup meaning differences over the presidency could block the whole process.
Several names have emerged for Cabinet posts. However, the various versions differ on which posts will go to which people, and as the reports circulated through Saturday night and Sunday morning, widely differing accounts were broadcast in the Arab media.
Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a French-educated senior member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was mentioned as a candidate for a key Cabinet post, possibly finance. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, was rumored to be in line for the defense ministry post or to keep his current portfolio.
The next Iraqi government will serve from June 30 until elections are held by Jan. 31.