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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 15:27 GMT
Allawi challenge for top Iraq job
Ibrahim Jaafari sitting beside Iyad Allawi at their swearing-in ceremony last June
Iyad Allawi (r) hopes to fend off a challenge from Ibrahim Jaafari
Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says he is forming a new coalition to oppose the Shia alliance that won last month's election.

His announcement came a day after Daawa Party chief Ibrahim Jaafari was named as the Shia list's candidate for the position of prime minister.

Mr Allawi said he was forming a broad coalition with other minority groups that won seats in the election.

He said it would be a group that "believes in Iraq and its principles".

Mr Allawi, a secular Shia, called Mr Jaafari an "honourable man, a fighter and a good brother" when asked if he feared the winning alliance would impose Islamic rule in Iraq.

"We are liberal powers and we believe in a liberal Iraq and not an Iraq governed by political Islamists," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Born in 1945 to prominent Shia Muslim family
Trained as neurologist before joining Baath party
Went into exile in early 1970s
Well-connected politically in US and UK
Mr Allawi announced his intention to form the broad coalition at a news conference in Baghdad. He said further details would be provided later.

"There are other lists and other brothers in smaller lists," Mr Allawi said.

"We are working with some of those lists to form a national Iraqi democratic coalition which believes in Iraq and its principles."

Most trusted

Despite a slick and well-funded electoral campaign, Mr Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, secured only 40 seats in the transitional parliament. An alliance of Kurdish parties has 77 deputies.

The United Iraqi Alliance, which won 140 seats in the 275-member interim parliament, named Mr Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister on Tuesday.

The nomination came after challenger Ahmed Chalabi dropped his bid for the post, amid pressure from within the UIA.

A two-thirds majority, or 182 votes, is needed to confirm the appointment of the prime minister, which will be the most powerful position in the transitional government whose job is to write a new constitution for Iraq.

Correspondents say Mr Jaafari is a popular choice, as he is seen as less corrupt and as having a good relationship with Iran but not as close to the Iranian government as some other Shia politicians.

As UIA candidate he also has the backing of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader.

Correspondents say, as interim prime minister, Mr Allawi enjoyed the patronage of the US-led authorities in Iraq and he won support in some circles for his tough stance towards the insurgency.

However, many Iraqis see the former Baathist as being too closely linked to the American occupiers to be trusted.

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