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Iraqi PM Candidate Calls Ending Violence His Top Goal --> Ibrahim al-Ja'fari (file photo) 16 February 2005 -- The leading candidate to become Iraq's new prime minister has said that ending the country's rampant violence would be his top priority if he took office.

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, who heads the Da'wah Party, a part of the election-winning Shiite Muslim-led United Iraqi Alliance, also told the Associated Press in an interview that U.S.-led troops would remain in Iraq as long as they are needed to help end the violence.

Al-Ja'fari, who currently serves as Iraq's interim vice president, also said Islam should be Iraq's official religion.

He said Islam should be one of the main sources for the country's constitution and legislation, along with "other sources" that he said would not harm Muslim sensibilities.

Al-Ja'fari emerged yesterday as the leading contender for prime minister after the victory of the largely Sunni United Iraqi Alliance in Iraq's 30 January elections. The bloc won 48 percent of the vote for the 275-member National Assembly, putting it in a leading position to decide the makeup of the new government.

Jawad al-Maliki, a member of the Da'wah Party, which belongs to the United Iraqi Alliance, described to Radio Free Iraq an initial agreement on al-Ja'fari becoming Iraq's prime minister, which he said would be announced in a few days.

"At the end [of the discussions], the matter was between two main candidates: The candidate of Da'wah Party, Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, and the candidate of SCIRI [the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq], Dr. Adel Abd al-Mehdi," al-Maliki said. "In an atmosphere marked with a sense of responsibility and of high importance [for the country], there was an initial agreement between the two parties on the candidacy of Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari for the post of prime minister."


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"Iraqi Political Talks Begin As Shi'ite Win Confirmed"


"Iraq: Largely Shi'a Bloc Must Now Find Allies To Form Ruling Coalition"