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Iraqi National Council Elects A Leader

National Council leader Fuad Masum (file photo) 1 September 2004 -- Iraq's new interim National Council met for the first time today amid a volley of mortar fire nearby, but members went ahead and took their oaths of office and elected a Kurdish politician, Fuad Masum, as their president.

Masum supervised August's national conference of delegates that chose the council, which is supposed to monitor Iraq's interim government until popular elections in January.

During the inaugural session, several mortar bombs exploded inside Baghdad's Green Zone, which houses Iraq's interim government and the U.S. Embassy. One person was injured.

Also today in Iraq, prominent politician Ahmed Chalabi said he escaped an assassination attempt that wounded two of his bodyguards as they were traveling to the National Council meeting from Al-Najaf.

"My convoy was ambushed when I was on my way back from Al-Najaf, where I went to visit the religious authority, [Grand Ayatollah Ali] al-Sistani, and congratulate him on returning safely," Chalabi said. "The convoy was fired at, and two guards were wounded, one of them seriously, and the other one lightly."

Chalabi headed a prominent exile opposition group and was a close ally of the U.S. government until a falling out over allegations that he leaked intelligence to Iran.


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