Iraq’s Shia alliance fails to choose prime minister
* Three US soldiers, Iraqi security official killed
BAGHDAD: Leaders of the winning Shia political alliance failed to agree on a single nominee for prime minister on Wednesday, with the two candidates insisting on a vote by the parliamentarians elected to the new National Assembly, officials said.
After hours of closed doors meeting with Shia cleric and politician Abdel Aziz al Hakim, members of the United Iraqi Alliance agreed to hold a secret ballot to choose between Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi, said Ali Hashim al-Youshaa, one of the alliance’s leaders who attended the meetings.
Al-Jaafari is the leader of the Dawa Party, known for its close ties to Iran. Chalabi leads the Iraqi National Congress and had close ties to the Pentagon before falling out of favor last year.
Three US soldiers have died in Iraq, including one killed in action and two involved in accidents, the US military said on Wednesday.
Two Lebanese businessmen kidnapped in Iraq in late December were set free on Wednesday after 49 days in captivity, government sources in Beirut said. They named the freed pair as Hassan Haydar and Ghazi Haydar, without clarifying if they were related.
An Italian journalist taken hostage in Baghdad this month made an emotional appeal for her life and called on foreign forces to withdraw from the country in a tape released by insurgents on Wednesday.
“I beg you, put an end to the occupation. I beg the Italian government and the Italian people to put pressure on the government to pull out,” Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for Italian newspaper, said in Italian, sobbing and holding her hands in front of her in supplication.
Meanwhile, the Italian senate on Wednesday voted by a large majority to extend the mission for Rome’s troops in Iraq, despite a tearful plea from journalist Giuliana Sgrena, held hostage in the country since February 4.
A total of 141 senators voted in favour of the extension and 112 against, with one abstention.
Iraq, in the town of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, a car bomb attack on an Iraqi army convoy killed several people, witnesses and local authorities said. The US military could not immediately confirm the attack.
Gunmen killed an army colonel in charge of security at oil pipelines at a northern town west of the oil city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, police said. Police said Colonel Ibrahim Ahmed was killed in his car in the town of Ajeel west of Kirkuk.
A crowd of Shi’qa Muslims marking a religious ceremony spotted a suspected suicide bomber amongst them and, fearing he might blow himself up, beat the man to death, Iraqi police said on Wednesday. agencies