Skip to comments.Shia scientist tipped to be Iraqi prime minister
Posted on 05/25/2004 5:40:45 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
A Shia nuclear scientist said to be close to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is emerging as one of the frontrunners to become the new prime minister of Iraq.
Hussain Shahristani spent a decade in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison for defying former dictator Saddam Hussein's command to turn his scientific expertise to the development of nuclear weapons.
Lakhdar Brahimi, United Nations special envoy, and Robert Blackwill, a Bush administration official, are still finalising the composition of the new Iraqi government. Officials say that balancing the communal, religious and ethnic groups within the new government is proving difficult and fluid, and caution that Mr Shahristani's appointment is not a foregone conclusion.
Iraq's Kurdish minority has also been lobbying for the post. One senior Kurdish official said he believed the selection process was by no means over.
But following a report on Tuesday night on the Washington Post website, US officials and diplomats said that the UN was likely to name Mr Shahristani as the country's first post-Saddam premier.
Mr Shahristani was quoted by the paper saying he would reluctantly accept the post if asked to serve: "If they consider my participation essential, I'll try to convince them otherwise . . . But if they're not convinced and they ask me to take a role . . . I cannot refuse. I must serve my people."
Mr Shahristani, 62, has until now been most conspicuous for his criticisms of the US. Less than three weeks after the invasion last year, he voiced complaints about the behaviour of US forces in an interview with the Financial Times.
The Americans, he said, "have committed some very serious mistakes".
Since then, the London- and Toronto-educated scientist has become more strident. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last month, he wrote: "The US, a year after occupation, has failed to win the trust of the Iraqi people and has allowed the country to slip into turmoil."
The White House declined to comment on the proposed appointment of Mr Shahristani as prime minister, saying the formation of the next Iraqi government was a matter for Mr Brahimi.
The State Department told Reuters that Mr Shahristani was one of three finalists being considered for the post, but other Bush administration officials suggested he was most likely to be appointed to lead the new Iraqi government after the US-led coalition hands over power on June 30.
Mr Shahristani was chief scientific adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, and was held in solitary confinement for 10 years after refusing to help build a nuclear weapon. He escaped in the chaos of the 1991 Gulf war and moved to London to head the Iraqi Refugee Aid Council.
He has described himself previously as an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most powerful Shia cleric in Iraq and the man whose consent is widely seen as crucial to endowing the next government with some legitimacy.
Please pray this man doesn't get the position, for the sake of a secular Iraq.
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