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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Profile: Ibrahim Jaafari
By Martin Asser
BBC News

Ibrahim Jaafari on Iraq's election day, 30 January
Jaafari hopes to bridge divisions in post-war Iraq
Ibrahim Jaafari, Iraq's new prime minister, was until recently virtually unknown outside his own country.

The 58-year-old physician, spokesman for the Islamic Daawa Party, emerged as the front-runner for the most powerful job in the transitional government after Iraq's landmark elections in January.

He was the preferred candidate of the Shia list that won the election.

And as soon as the three-man presidency council was sworn in, it backed that choice.

Spokesman for Islamic Daawa Party
Born in Karbala in 1947
Educated at Mosul university as a medical doctor
Lived in Iran and UK since 1980s
The Daawa is one of the oldest Shia Islamist movements in Iraq, and it fought a bloody campaign against Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1970s.

When the rebellion was crushed, Mr Jaafari went into exile in Iran first and then the UK.

The Daawa has quickly re-established itself in Shia-dominated southern Iraq after Saddam's fall.

In the elections it ran as one of the main players in the broad Shia list, the United Iraqi Alliance, with the backing of the senior cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.


When he was serving in the mainly ceremonial role of vice-president in the outgoing US-appointed interim regime, an opinion poll last year suggested Mr Jaafari was Iraq's most popular politician.

He trailed only Ayatollah Sistani and radical firebrand Moqtada Sadr in the public's esteem.

Mr Jaafari's appeal as PM will be as a unifying figure, keen to bring Sunni Arabs into the democratic fold after their widespread absence from polling stations.

He would also aim to satisfy the Kurds' thirst for autonomy without endangering the integrity of the country.

Ibrahim Jaafari sitting beside Iyad Allawi at their swearing in ceremony last June
The new PM replaces Iyad Allawi (right) as Iraq's new kingpin
And he says he believes that full-blown sectarian conflict is unlikely because most Iraqis want coexistence.

His past pronouncements have not unambiguously shown where he stands on the key issues of religious law and what role religion should play in Iraq.

Anticipating the triumph of the Shia list, Mr Jaafari said before the election that the winners would not rule as Shias, but as Iraqis who would not exclude other communities

However, he was one of the champions of Islam as the only source of legislation - when the interim Iraqi government was drafting its basic law.

He does not appear to favour hardline policies in evidence in some parts of the Muslim world - where Islam is used to justify bans on women driving, or voting or entering certain male-dominated domains.

But some of his detractors accuse him of being secretly linked to Iranian hardliners, and fear he may push for a similar theologically-based system of government.

And even his soft-spoken diplomatic charm may not win over those Iraqis who still view the US-appointed interim rulers as outsiders, who spent the harsh years of Saddam Hussein's rule abroad.


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