Newspaper article International New York Times

Iraqi Leaders Elect Former Hussein Foe as President

Newspaper article International New York Times

Iraqi Leaders Elect Former Hussein Foe as President

Article excerpt

The move was seen as an important step in forming a new government that the international community and Iraq's religious authorities have called for.

Iraq's leaders on Thursday selected Fouad Massoum, a longtime Kurdish politician and former guerrilla fighter who took up arms against Saddam Hussein's government, as the country's new president, an important step in forming a new government that the international community and Iraq's religious authorities have called for and that is described as crucial to confronting a growing Sunni insurgency.

Mr. Massoum, 76, replaces Jalal Talabani, who has been president since 2005 and was seen as a rare unifying figure among Iraq's many factions but has been largely absent from the political scene since suffering a stroke in late 2012. The Kurds settled on Mr. Massoum after a late-night meeting Wednesday in Baghdad. After two rounds of voting in Parliament on Thursday, Mr. Massoum received 211 votes out of 269 cast and was immediately sworn in.

The next political step, the selection of a new prime minister, will be more difficult and fraught, especially as violent attacks are killing civilians on a daily basis and Sunni militants led by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are consolidating their control of large parts of the north and west of Iraq. That process will determine the future of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has been in power since 2006 but who has become an increasingly polarizing figure as the insurgency has grown, setting off new rounds of sectarian violence.

Mr. Maliki has insisted that he will seek a third term as prime minister, but it appears increasingly unlikely that his efforts to remain in power will succeed. American officials, who believe Mr. Maliki has become too divisive to lead Iraq out of its current crisis, have been working behind the scenes to push Iraq's leaders to select someone else.

Other powerful factions appear arrayed against Mr. Maliki, as well. Iran, which exerts enormous influence here, has signaled that it would like to see new leadership, as have Iraq's powerful Shiite religious leaders and other political factions, Sunnis and Kurds but also many among the Shiite majority. …

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