WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- The new interim president of Iraq is a Sunni tribal chief and engineer who has frequently criticized the United States' occupation of Iraq, and who helped negotiate a truce in restive Fallujah.
Iraqi Governing Council President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar -- who was elected after the assassination of Izzadine Salim -- will serve as president under new Prime Minister Iyad Alawi after sovereignty is handed over June 30, U.N. Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi announced Monday.
Al-Yawar and his colleagues took office Tuesday, however, and the Iraqi Governing Council that was hand-picked by the United States was dissolved. The U.S. led-Coaltion Provisional Authority remains in power until sovereignty.
The roster of leaders includes three exiles and only one man who remained in Iraq throughout Saddam's regime. It also leaves out the controversial Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the council and president of the Iraqi National Congress. Members of the INC are being investigated for potential fraud, and Chalabi's house was forcibly searched two weeks ago.
Chalabi and Alawi are longtime rivals for U.S. favor and support as they both sought the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi has generally had the support of the Pentagon, while Alawi's Iraqi National Accord has had closer ties to the CIA.
President-designate al-Yawar has said that the draft United Nations resolution concerning Iraq "fell short of our expectations" with regard to Iraqi control over foreign troops and reconstruction funding, and recently criticized the occupation in a television interview.
"We blame the United States 100 percent for the security in Iraq," al-Yawar 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-Yawar has also called for the U.S. soldiers implicated in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison to face an international war crime tribunal.
"We are dealing with Iraqis who are considered political prisoners, not common criminals," said al-Yawar on May 2. "We demand an official apology from the United States to the Iraqi people generally and to those prisoners in particular."
The soldiers "should be tried as war criminals according to international law," he said.
President George W. Bush said Tuesday he didn't mind that al-Yawar was outspoken with criticism.
"I fully understand a leader willing to speak their mind; kind of like doing it myself, you know," Bush said at an impromptu Rose Garden press conference.
The presidential position was initially offered to U.S. favorite 80-year-old Adnan Pachachi, also a Sunni and the foreign minister of Iraq government that was deposed by the Baath party in 1968.
Pachachi declined the presidency, according to Brahimi.
"Dr. Adnan Pachachi, who enjoys wide respect and support in Iraq, was offered the presidential position with the support of Sheikh Ghazi, but declined for personal reasons," Brahimi said.
Al-Yawar gave a slightly different version, saying he and Pachachi competed against one another for the role in the governing council, and he won.
"What we had was a healthy, brotherly and honest competing. My brother Adnan Pachachi is like an uncle and a teacher who I can learn a lot from," al-Yawar said in an interview with al-Jazeera television.
Pachachi denied he was the beneficiary of U.S. favoritism.
"To say that the Americans wanted me, and that they pressed others to select me for the position of president is a lie, and there is no truth to it whatsoever," Pachachi said.
Pachachi, who lived in exile for 32 years, founded the Independent Democratic Movement in February 2003 to support a secular, democratic government. Pachachi sat with First Lady Laura Bush in the House gallery at the January State of the Union address.
President-designate al-Yawar is a civil engineer who was born in Mosul, in northern Iraq, but has lived in Saudi Arabia for the last 15 years. He was vice president of Hicap Technology Co. in Riyadh, a telecommunications and perimeter security systems company.
Brahimi also announced the appointment of Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari as deputy president. Jaafari, from Karbala, is a physician and spokesman for the Da'wa Party, which has strong backing from Iran and opposed Saddam Hussein's regime. Ja'afari left Iraq for Iran in 1979 and moved to London 10 years later.
Brahimi also announced the appointment of Rowsch Shaways as deputy president. Shaways is president of the Kurdish National Assembly and is a strong advocate for Kurdish autonomy in an Iraqi federal system. He rose to leadership from a military role with the Kurdish militia known as the Pesh Merga, which remains in arms in northern Iraq.
Brahimi made these recommendations to Prime Minister designate Alawi to flesh out his cabinet, and based them on four weeks of consultations with Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and "a very large number of representatives" of the Iraqi public, including political parties, professional associations, trade unions, tribal and religious groups, Brahimi said.
Brahimi was tapped by the United States to cobble together an acceptable executive branch for Iraq after complicated plans for regional caucuses, leading to a national parliament and an executive selected from that body. Brahimi's time was truncated by the volatile security situation in central Iraq, which hobbled his movement around the country.
Alawi, a Shiite and neurologist, was a member of the Baath Party in Iraq but broke his ties in 1971 and fled to London. He created the Iraqi National Accord in 1990 and advocated the United States attempt to foster coup from within the Iraqi army to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The INA is made up primarily of former military and security officials drawn from Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.
The Iraqi National Accord planned the failed June 1996 coup attempt that was reportedly funded by the CIA.
The interim Iraqi government will be in power through at least January of 2005, when national elections are scheduled. The United Nations is advising Iraq on setting up elections on a compressed time line.
Alawi announced a 33-member cabinet on Tuesday in Baghdad.