04/22/2006, 00.00
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Al-Maliki, new Shiite candidate for PM

Nominated by the Shiite-dominated United Iraq Alliance, Mr Maliki will not be opposed by Sunnis. Parliament is expected to confirm him as the new PM this afternoon.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The United Iraq Alliance, which won last December elections, picked Dawa Party second top leader, Jawad al-Maliki, as its nominee after the current premier, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, bowed out. The new Prime Minister-designate has pledged to form a national unity government that will fight terrorism and corruption. Abdel Aziz al-Akim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), made the announcement this morning.

Mr Maliki said that, if officially charged with forming the new government, efficiency and absolute honesty will be the criteria that will guide him in choosing ministers.

"I intend to form a national unity government that will face the challenges of terrorism and corruption," Maliki reiterated in a meeting with leaders of the dominant Shiite coalition.

He thanked outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for the courage he showed in pulling out at this critical juncture.

With Maliki's nomination, negotiations to form a new government that had stalled for four months can start again.

A close ally of Mr Jaafari, Maliki recently headed a committee which purged members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life. However, Sunni politicians indicated they would not oppose him.

"We welcome the choice of Mr Maliki and believe that we can now form a national unity government in Iraq which will be non-sectarian," Zhafer al-Ani, spokesman for the National Concord Front, said.

Iraq's 275-member parliament is scheduled to meet this afternoon to ratify the nomination. Lawmakers will also endorse the presidential and vice-presidential nominees (respectively a Kurd, a Shiite and a Sunni), the assembly's speaker (a Sunni Arab) and deputy speakers (a Sunni and a Kurd).

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