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Former Najaf governor named Iraqi PM

Former Najaf governor named Iraqi PM

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s president on Tuesday named pro-Western lawmaker Adnan Zurfi, a former Najaf city governor, as the next prime minister, tasked with ruling a country hit by military unrest, street protests and the coronavirus outbreak. Lawmaker Zurfi, 54, is the former governor of Najaf and once belonged to the Dawa party, an opposition force to ex-dictator Saddam Hussein who was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion.

Zurfi is an Iraqi-US dual national who would have to renounce his American citizenship to take up the premiership, which is yet to be confirmed by parliament.

President Barham Saleh said he had nominated Zurfi to replace outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, who resigned in December amid Iraq’s unprecedented wave of anti-government rallies.

Zurfi, a member of the Nasr coalition led by ex-PM Haider al-Abadi, now has 30 days to pull together a government.

While he is likely to have the backing of some Shia parties and the Kurdish and Sunni factions, he was quickly rejected by the powerful Fatah bloc, parliament’s second-largest.

“We reject the president’s unconstitutional step,” said a statement by Fatah, the political arm of the Hashed al-Shaabi military network that includes factions allied with Washington’s arch-foe Tehran.

Zurfi’s nomination comes at an especially tumultuous time for Iraq, which has been battered by almost six months of street protests, collapsing oil prices, the novel coronavirus outbreak and the renewed rocket attacks, which Washington blames on pro-Iranian forces.

A senior Iraqi government source said that political factions had intensely debated names for days, seeking a “non-confrontational” figure.

An earlier nominee, Mohammad Allawi, had failed to form a cabinet by March 2, triggering a new 15-day deadline for Saleh that was set to end late Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020

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