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Iraq Transition

Al-Jaafari says he would accept PM job

Shiite alliance wins majority of Iraq assembly seats

Final certified results from the January 30 elections are announced Thursday.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The top contender for Iraq's transitional prime minister post told CNN on Thursday that he would accept the position if politicians offered to it him.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari also said he would make a strong effort to bring the alienated Sunni Arab minority into the country's nascent political culture.

"I think we have to involve them in government," al-Jaafari said. "I can't imagine a government without Sunni, Shiite and Kurd because all these are main components of our society."

Al-Jaafari is the leader of the Dawa Party, one of the major movements in the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance.

The UIA will hold more than half of the nation's 275-member transitional National Assembly, according to final certified results announced Thursday.

Al-Jaafari, who spoke a couple of hours after election results were certified, said he believes the UIA will make a decision by Monday on the prime minister position. Since last June, Ayad Allawi has been the interim prime minister.

Others who have been mentioned for the prime minister's post include Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Alliance and interim Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The prime minister will be nominated by the president and must be approved by the assembly.

Asked whether he would support an Iraq based on an Islamic republic model, al-Jaafari noted that Iraq's government would reflect its distinct personality: "We have to adapt our system according to the character and nature of our society."

He said "security, services and the economy" are the main arenas that need attention.

Asking coalition military forces to pull out of Iraqi cities would depend on many factors, he said, including the fragile security situation and rebuilding.

"I think the security system needs time," he said, referring to the strengthening of an all-Iraqi force.

Asked what message he would pass along to his country in taking the post, he said Iraq has to "protect" what it "established" in the January 30 elections: "democracy."

UIA will still need partners

The UIA, backed by powerful Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, will have 140 seats, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said.

The Kurdish alliance, second-place winner in the elections, will have 75 assembly seats.

The Iraqi List, led by Allawi and backed by the United States, earned 40 seats. Smaller parties took the remaining assembly spots.

The United Iraqi Alliance will need coalition partners despite the majority. One of the assembly's first duties -- the selection of a president and two deputy presidents -- requires a two-thirds vote.

The certification of election results and the allocation of assembly seats follows Sunday's announcement of uncertified vote totals and a three-day complaint period.

Although the UIA earned just short of a majority of votes, it came out ahead in the seat allocation.

That's because the votes from 99 parties that did not reach the threshold of 30,000 ballots had to be reallocated to more popular coalitions -- giving the UIA more than half of the assembly seats.

The major role of the assembly will be to write a permanent constitution, which would be put to a national referendum by mid-October. Elections for a permanent government would be held in December if the constitution is approved.

Voter turnout -- more than 8 million votes were cast out of more than 14 million people that Iraqi officials said were eligible -- was significant, with many Shiite Arabs and Kurds going to the polls.

Turnout among Sunni Arabs, the group that dominated Iraq's government under Saddam Hussein, was low. Much of the insurgency has been centered in the country's Sunni heartland.

Other parties winning assembly seats include: interim President Ghazi al-Yawar's Iraqiyun, with 5 seats; Iraq Turkmen Front, 3 seats; Independent Coalitions, 3 seats; Islamic Labor Organization, 2 seats; Islamic Kurdistan Society, 2 seats; People's Union, 2 seats, Reconciliation and Liberation Front, 1 seat; National Democratic Coalition, 1 seat; and Rafidain Front, 1 seat.

Alleged al Qaeda members arrested

Iraqi security forces have arrested two members of al Qaeda in Baghdad, a statement from the interim government's communications department said Thursday.

The statement said Huthaifa Sattar Abdul Jabbar -- nicknamed "Agha Hado" -- and his brother, Mohammed, were arrested Saturday during a search of a residential area in Iraq's capital.

"From information and evidence obtained during the search, it has become clear that Huthaifa is a member of [the] al Qaeda organization who works in the Baghdad propaganda cell of the [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi terrorist network," the statement said. "It has also been clear that Mohammed works in Baghdad propaganda cell as well."

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi declared his allegiance to al Qaeda last year and acts attributed to his group were praised in an audio tape, released December 27, believed to be from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Other developments

  • The U.S. military said Thursday that a car bombing in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul a day earlier killed a U.S. Task Force Freedom soldier and wounded three others. The attack brought the number of U.S. troop deaths to 1,468. Meanwhile, American soldiers in Mosul defused six roadside bombs Thursday after an Iraqi alerted them to the explosives, the U.S. military said.
  • Iraq's borders will be closed for five days, starting Thursday. The country's National Security Council recommended the closure, which coincides with Ashura, a major Shiite holiday. The move is seen as an effort to limit infiltration of foreign insurgents during the holiday. Attacks during Ashura last year killed more than 180 people in Baghdad and Karbala, south of the capital.
  • Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist kidnapped this month in Baghdad, appeared in a videotape broadcast on Italian television Wednesday and urged her fellow citizens and government to do all they can to end the occupation of Iraq. The video was released just hours before Italy's Senate voted to extend the financing for the deployment of Italian troops in Iraq. (Full story)

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