- Title: IRAQ: People rally in Baghdad in support of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari
- Date: 3rd April 2006
- Summary: (W3) BAGHDAD, IRAQ (MARCH 30, 2006) (REUTERS) PRIME MINISTER IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI PRESIDING OVER A CABINET MEETING (3 SHOTS) PRIME MINISTER IBRAHIM Al-JAAFARI ARRIVING TO GIVE PRESS CONFERENCE
- Embargoed: 18th April 2006 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVADVLZDRYECV00JZ8SE4T0HPL5G
- Story Text: Nearly one thousand people marched through the streets of the predominantly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Kadhimiya on Saturday (April 1) to show support for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
The protest came in response to a public call for the first time by leaders of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Alliance bloc for Jaafari to step down as prime minister to break weeks of deadlock over a national unity government.
The protesters, mainly supporters of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched through the street chanting slogans in support of Jaafari. Sadr's support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites who won election to the new parliament December
The protesters carried two black coffins representing democracy and election.
'"It is a spontaneous move by the people who attended this peaceful rally at Kadhimiya district to show support for Ibrahim al-Jaafari because he is the right man in the right place. Our hands with the hands of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, because he is the hand of the right," said Haji Ahmed, who took part in the rally.
The rift declared by one leader of the Shi'ite Alliance and echoed, anonymously, by others sparked consternation in the Alliance ranks as parties held their latest round of talks on a grand coalition with Kurds and Sunnis, who are adamant in their rejection of Jaafari.
Officials say a unity government, more than three months after December's election, is vital to averting civil war after five weeks of spiraling sectarian bloodshed.
"I call on Jaafari to take a courageous step and set a fine example by stepping down," Kasim Daoud, a senior member of the independent group within the Alliance, told Reuters.
A top aide to Jaafari immediately rejected the call.
Jawad al-Maliki told Reuters Jaafari would go on "until the end".
The United States has stepped up pressure on Iraqi leaders to form a coalition of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds, seen as critical to putting a lid on sectarian violence that has killed hundreds since a major Shi'ite shrine was bombed a month ago.
Privately, rival Alliance leaders have been turning against Jaafari but the call on Saturday was their first public demand.
Shi'ite leaders have also said Washington has told them it does not want Jaafari -- criticised by Sunnis and Kurds for failing to stem the violence -- to continue as prime minister.
The minority groups had formally written this week to Alliance leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim urging him to produce a more acceptable candidate. Jaafari beat a candidate from Hakim's SCIRI party by a single vote in an internal ballot in February.
As by far the biggest bloc in parliament, with a near-majority of 128 seats in the 275-seat chamber, the Alliance has the right to nominate who will fill the most powerful job.
One alternative may be the defeated SCIRI candidate, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. However, his role in that ballot may count against him and leaders may prefer a compromise third man.
Among other names mentioned are Finance Minister Ali Allawi, deputy parliamentary speaker Hussain al-Shahristani, Fadhila party leader Nadim al-Jaberi and Qasim Daoud himself.
Officials said Jaafari had the support of his own Dawa party, its Dawa-Iraq allies and the movement of Iranian-backed cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. SCIRI and its Badr allies, the independents and Fadhila were against Jaafari.
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