Iraq elects Kurdish president, Saddam said to be shaken

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Wednesday, April 6, 2005

The Kurdish population of Iraq celebrated today the appointment of veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as the country's new president. The confirmation comes after Iraqis braved suicide bombings and other attacks to vote on the future of their country's Government more than two months ago. As well as electing Talabani, Iraq's Parliament also appointed Shi'a Adel Abdul Mahdi and Sunni Arab tribal leader Ghazi Yawar as vice presidents.

"This is the new Iraq -- an Iraq that elects a Kurd to be president and an Arab former president as his deputy," said Parliament speaker Hajem al-Hassani earlier. During Saddam Hussein's rule, the Sunni minority dominated Iraq, while Shi'ite communities were oppressed and the Kurdish population massacred as they fought against Saddam's regime. The Kurds make up 20 percent of the country's population, while Shi'ites make up 60 percent and the Sunni Arabs make up between 15 percent to 20 percent. Reports say Talabani has pledged to work with all ethnic and religious factions to rebuild Iraq and has called upon neighbouring countries to stop insurgents from further disrupting Iraq.

Although his post is seen by some as a ceremonial position, Talabani's role will include overseeing the completion of Iraq's new constitution by August this year and appointing Shi'ite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari as Iraq's prime minister.

Echoing the comments of many Kurdish Iraqis, Mohammed Saleh, a 42-year-old Kurd in Kirkuk, told reporters: "Today Jalal Talabani made it to the seat of power, while Saddam Hussein is sitting in jail. Who would have thought."

According to agency reports, Saddam Hussein, imprisoned at a U.S.-run high security facility on the outskirts of Baghdad, was said to be "clearly upset" as Iraq moved closer to becoming a democratic state again. Watching the election results unfold live on Iraqi television, Saddam "realised that it was over, that a democratic process had taken place and that there was a new, elected president," Iraq's human rights minister Bakhtiar Amin told Reuters earlier today.

Sources

Antonnio Castaneda. "Kurd Picked As Iraq Interim President" — Associated Press, April 6, 2005 Luke Baker. "Saddam watches election on TV" — Reuters, April 6, 2005

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