Iraqi blocs se­lect new PM-des­ig­nate af­ter weeks of jock­ey­ing

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - WEATHER -

BAGH­DAD >> For­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Mo­hammed Allawi was named prime min­is­ter­des­ig­nate by ri­val Iraqi fac­tions Satur­day af­ter weeks of po­lit­i­cal dead­lock.

The choice comes as the coun­try weath­ers trou­bled times, in­clud­ing on­go­ing anti-gov­ern­ment protests and the con­stant threat of be­ing en­snared by fes­ter­ing U.S.-Iran ten­sions.

The se­lec­tion of Allawi, 66, to re­place out­go­ing Prime Min­is­ter Adel Ab­dul-Mahdi was the prod­uct of many back-room talks over months be­tween ri­val par­ties.

In Tahrir Square, the epi­cen­ter of Iraq’s four­month anti-gov­ern­ment protest move­ment, demon­stra­tors re­jected Allawi’s can­di­dacy. Demon­stra­tors, who have long said they would not ac­cept a can­di­date cho­sen by the estab­lish­ment, erected por­traits of the new pre­mierdes­ig­nate crossed with an “X.” Some chanted “Allawi out!”

But many feared they would clash with fol­low­ers of in­flu­en­tial Shi­ite cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr, who re­cently re­versed a de­ci­sion to with­draw sup­port from the protest move­ment. Of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts said that move was to gain lever­age on the street as a dead­line to se­lect a new premier drew near.

At least three ac­tivists said fol­low­ers of al-Sadr had at­tacked demon­stra­tors in Tahrir. Some protesters and oth­ers were fear­ful.

“The square doesn’t want him, but the prob­lem is since Muq­tada has sided with (the elites), the square can­not refuse him,” said ac­tivist Ka­mal Ja­ban. “Oth­er­wise there will be blood­shed.”

Al-Sadr’s fol­low­ers re­turned in the hun­dreds on Fri­day night, three wit­nesses said, bring­ing tents and sup­plies and re-oc­cu­py­ing a strate­gic high-rise over­look­ing the square known as the Turk­ish Restau­rant, as well as the Jumhuriya Bridge, which leads to the Green Zone.

Al-Sadr is­sued a state­ment say­ing Allawi’s se­lec­tion was “the wish of the peo­ple,” and asked protesters to carry on with the anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions.

If elected by par­lia­ment, Allawi will have to con­tend with nav­i­gat­ing Iraq through re­gional con­fronta­tions be­tween Tehran and Wash­ing­ton.

IRAQI PRES­I­DENCY ME­DIA OF­FICE

Iraqi Pres­i­dent Barham Salih, right, in­structs newly ap­pointed Prime Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Allawi in Bagh­dad, Iraq, Satur­day.

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