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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Who's who in Iraq: Hajim al-Hassani
Hajim Hassani in the US
Hassani has spent his adult life in the United States
Hajim al-Hassani may have been voted in as speaker of Iraq's parliament more because of who he is not, rather than who he is.

The grey-bearded 50-year-old took the position reserved for a Sunni Arab by a large majority of 215 votes out of 241 deputies present.

He was one of only two Sunni Arab MPs who were acceptable for the high profile, but largely powerless post.

The rest were either members of the Shia list - or had connections with the former Saddam Hussein regime which was unacceptable to Shia deputies who hold a majority in the parliament.

The only other possible candidate - outgoing President Ghazi Yawer - had ruled himself out.

Exile

Born in Kirkuk and a graduate of Mosul university, Mr Hassani moved to the United States in 1979 and spent most of his working life there.

You should be part of the suffering of your people... who suffer from power outages and water shortages... part of their suffering in facing terrorism
Hajim al-Hassani

He has degrees in agriculture and economics from the universities of Nebraska and Connecticut.

He then spent 12 years working in Los Angeles, where he became head of an investment and trading company.

During that time he became an activist in the anti-Saddam opposition and rose through the ranks of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

In 2003, he returned to his homeland after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam and took up a deputy post in the Iraqi Governing Council.

During that time, the IIP emerged as a strong force in the restive Sunni province of al-Anbar and Mr Hassani helped negotiate an unsuccessful truce with the insurgents of Falluja which held until April 2004.

Insurgency

Mr Hassani was appointed industry minister in the interim government of Iyad Allawi that was set up after the US handed sovereignty back to Iraqi hands in June 2004.

Votes being counted for speaker of parliament
Hassani won with a vote of 215 in the 275-seat chamber

But his ministry's privatisation programme has failed to revive Iraq's economy which remains crippled by the anti US-insurgency.

And he provoked outright anger from many of his Sunni co-religionists when he backed the US-led assault on Falluja late in 2004.

The IIP resigned from the government and Mr Hassani chose to be banished from his party while he stayed on in his ministerial position.

He later helped with the distribution of humanitarian aid and reconstruction in the devastated city after the assault on Falluja was over.

Sectarian differences

Mr Hassani is considered an outsider by most Sunni Arabs, but as an Islamist - if a moderate one - his is also viewed with suspicion by the secular Shia tradition represented by Mr Allawi and his supporters.

Analysts say he may not be unifying figure that is needed to heal rifts after the rancorous process that led to his election - a process that was intended to be a mere formality.

Hajim Hassani
Hassani has been expelled from the Iraqi Islamic Party
Nor - after the Falluja schism - is he best placed to persuade disillusioned Sunni Arabs to resist the insurgency and rally behind the new government  - Sunnis make up about 20% of the Iraqi population, but because of a wide-scale boycott and fears of violence during polling, they hold only about 5% of parliamentary seats.

However, in his new role Mr Hassani has signalled as desire to heal sectarian and ethnic differences and put the people's needs first.

"The Kurd has put his hand in the Arab's hand and the Shia has taken the Sunni's hand so they could all walk side-by-side along with their Christian and Turkmen brothers," he said in his acceptance speech.

And he warned MPs: "You should be part of the suffering of your people... who suffer from power cuts and water shortages... part of their suffering in facing terrorism".




The Struggle for Iraq

GUIDE: WHO'S WHO IN IRAQ

Jalal Talabani Overview
A look at the key players in post-Saddam Iraq

TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT


ISLAMIC GROUPS AND LEADERS
 

SECULAR GROUPS AND LEADERS
 

NATIONAL GROUPS
 



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