Iraq names new PM amid NATO base attack

Source:AFP Published: 2020/3/18 22:13:40

Iraq's president on Tuesday named pro-Western lawmaker and former Najaf city governor Adnan Zurfi as the next prime minister, tasked with ruling a country hit by military unrest, street protests and the coronavirus pandemic.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (right, front) and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace (left, front) attend the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers' session at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 25, 2019. Photo: Xinhua

The nomination came as Iraq faced two separate rocket attacks, one near the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad late Tuesday after a dawn attack hit a military base hosting US-led coalition and NATO troops. 

In a statement late Tuesday, 54-year-old Zurfi pledged elections within a year of forming his cabinet and vowed to respond to the demands of protesters hitting the streets for months over government graft and inefficiency.  

He served multiple terms as governor of the Shiite holy city of Najaf and was elected in the 2018 parliamentary vote under the Nasr coalition, led by ex-PM Haider al-Abadi.

Zurfi once belonged to the Dawa party, an opposition force to Saddam Hussein who was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion, and has spent years in the United States. 

The Iraqi-US dual national would have to renounce his American citizenship to take up the premiership.

He met late Tuesday with outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, who resigned in December during Iraq's unprecedented wave of anti-government rallies.

Zurfi has 30 days to pull together a cabinet, which would be put to a vote of confidence in parliament.

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

Political factions had intensely debated names for days, seeking a "non-confrontational" figure.


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