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Iraqi Shi'ites Reportedly Nearing Premier Selection

22 February 2005 -- Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim political leaders are reported moving closer to deciding on their final choice for prime minister of the new Iraqi government.

The two leading candidates of the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which won the most seats in the election for the 275-member National Assembly, are Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, a Shi'a who currently serves as acting vice president, and secular politician Ahmad Chalabi.

Officials in the coalition said a decision between the two men could be made within days.

The party of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has meanwhile put Allawi forward as a candidate for prime minister.

A two-thirds majority is required in the National Assembly to confirm the new prime minister and his cabinet. No single coalition controls such a majority, meaning a deal to form an alliance is necessary.