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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Iraqi presidency to be approved
Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani
Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani is expected to named president
Iraq's new parliament convened on Wednesday to choose the first freely-elected president in the country's history.

The assembly will select a three-man presidency council, which will in turn appoint a prime minister.

Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani is expected to take the top post, with Sunni and Shia Muslims his deputies.

Saddam Hussein and other jailed members of his former regime will watch the session on TV, an Iraqi minister said.

Human Rights Minster Bakhtiar Amin said it was important the deposed leadership see they will never come back to power.

"There will be a place in jail for Saddam and the 11 [other jailed members of the regime] to watch the TV to understand their time is finished, there is a new Iraq and that they are no longer ruling the country; so they can understand that in the new Iraq, people are elected and they are not coming to power by a coup d'etat," Mr Amin told the AFP news agency.

Appeal to Sunnis

The meeting comes as the US named its new envoy to Iraq as Zalmay Khalilzad, currently ambassador in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad

Afghanistan-born Mr Khalilzad's nomination was announced by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Three days ago, the Iraqi parliament elected a speaker after weeks of political deadlock on the make-up of the new government.

Iraq's Shia alliance, which won the largest share of the vote in January, has been locked in negotiations with the Kurdish coalition that came second in the January polls.

The two groups have widely differing views, particularly on religion, and they also want control of the all-important oil ministry, says the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad.

To complicate matters still further, they are trying to offer jobs to Sunnis in order to draw support away from the insurgency, our correspondent adds.

Outgoing President Ghazi Yawer, a Sunni Arab, and current Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shia, are expected to be named vice-presidents.

'Steady progress'

The appointment of Mr Yawer as vice-president would ensure Sunni representation at a senior level of the new Iraqi administration.

Attempts to include representatives of the Sunni Arab community in the new government were hampered by a Sunni boycott of the elections.

Sunni parties hold just 17 of 275 seats in Iraq's new parliament.

Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish negotiator and foreign minister in Iraq's outgoing government, described the choice of Mr Yawer as "the common denominator".

Agreement on other positions in the new government, expected to be headed by Shia Ibrahim Jaafari, was also near, Mr Zebari told AFP.

"There is good, steady progress," Mr Zebari said.

"I am confident it will be followed by a prime minister and cabinet within a few days. The two main lists recognise the need to accelerate our efforts because time is running out and people are getting impatient."

Find out how the presidency will be appointed


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