Yahoo! News - Allawi Enters Iraq PM Race; Bush Faces Europe
Allawi Enters Iraq PM Race; Bush Faces Europe
Mon Feb 21, 5:37 PM ET
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By Mariam Karouny
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The battle to become Iraq (news - web sites)'s prime minister heated up on Monday when interim leader Iyad Allawi's coalition formally put him forward as a candidate after last month's historic elections won by a Shi'ite alliance.
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Allawi's coalition, which came third in the Jan. 30 vote, winning 14 percent of the vote and securing 40 seats in the 275-member National Assembly, decided to put their candidate forward after nearly two weeks of intense debate.
The proposal comes as Allawi's biggest ally, President Bush (news - web sites), begins a five-day tour of Europe with an appeal to its leaders to bury differences over the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and join the United States in promoting democracy across the Middle East.
Thaer al-Naqib, an Iraq government spokesman, told Reuters the decision on Allawi was clinched when several other parties and coalitions said they would support the interim leader's bid to return to his post.
His entrance into the fray suggests Allawi's backers believe that not everyone is content to let the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shi'ite-led religious coalition that won the election, gaining 140 seats in the assembly, decide who gets the top job.
The United Iraqi Alliance has yet to name its candidate for prime minister formally, although the front runner is Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a religious Shi'ite and former exile. He is being challenged from within the alliance by one-time Pentagon (news - web sites) darling and former exile Ahmad Chalabi.
A two-thirds majority is needed in the assembly to form a government -- a margin no coalition has unless it strikes an alliance with another group. A Kurdish alliance came second in the election, winning 25 percent of votes for 75 seats.
Iraq's leading Kurdish leader said on Monday that the Kurdish bloc would strike an alliance with the party that most supported a federal and pluralist Iraq.