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Iraq's Talabani steps up pressure on PM Jaafari

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Mar 4 (Reuters) Iraq's President Jalal Talabani today stepped up pressure on embattled Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari saying opposing his nomination for a second term was a matter of national unity.

''Opposing Jaafari's nomination is not a personal issue ...

It's in the interest of forming a government of national unity,'' Talabani, a Kurd, said, without calling explicitly on his Shi'ite partners in government to reconsider Jaafari's nomination.

Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Alliance is under mounting pressure from potential partners to ditch Jaafari as their price for joining a government of national unity the United States hopes would help end bloodletting and allow it to draw down troops.

Jaafari, leader of the Dawa party and premier for the past year, won the nomination to lead the new government in a narrow internal ballot of Alliance legislators. Critics say he has failed to stop violence and improve the economy.

US officials are closely involved in trying to form the Government and have privately expressed reservations about Jaafari's close ties to fellow Shi'ite Islamists in Iran.

Secular, Sunni and Kurdish political sources said the nomination of Jaafari has made forming a government more than two months after the December polls a very difficult process.

REUTERS PG RS1709

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