Iraqi president named

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed Mr Yawar’s appointment as Iraq’s first president since Saddam Hussein’s fall.

Mr Brahimi also named Ibrahim Jaffari from the Shi’ite religious party Dawa, and Roj Nuri Shawis of Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party as vice presidents.

“Both the coalition and the Governing Council members have unanimously chosen Yawar as president,” said Governing Council member Nassir al-Chaderchi.

“Sheikh Ghazi Yawar has officialy been announced the president of the republic and has started to receive congratulations from Governing Council members,” said Hind al-Shnein from Yawar’s office.

An earlier report said the Mr Pachachi had been chosen, but another issued soon after said he had turned down the job.

The announcement breaks a deadlock over the appointment to the largely ceremonial post, the country’s first president since Saddam Hussein.

While Mr Pachachi reportedly had the backing of the US-led coalition and the United Nations, Mr Yawar was the choice of many members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

The interim president will head a new administration from the handover date June 30, ahead of democratic elections which are due to be held by next January.

The council has already selected former exile Iyad Allawi to become the country’s prime minister, following the June 30 handover of power.

Mr Brahimi said he had passed on recommendations for a 26-member cabinet team to Mr Allawi, who will announce his government line-up shortly.

Mr Brahimi also said the post was initially offered to Mr Pachachi, with the support of Yawar, but that Pachachi had “declined for personal reasons”.

Meanwhile, there are reports of a number of explosions in central Baghdad, apparently targeting the US-led coalition’s headquarters, just after the presidential announcement was made.

Witnesses have reported seeing smoke billowing from the area inside the so-called Green Zone, with the sound of shooting following at least seven blasts.

An anonymous Iraqi policeman said at least three mortars have landed inside the zone, and it is not known if there have been any casualties.

He said one may have landed near the presidential palace where the offices of US-appointed administrator Paul Bremer.

Another source said people have been rushed into safe bunkers.

Coalition officials have predicted an upsurge in violence ahead of the handover at the end of the month.

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