Written by Frank Cotolo
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Tuesday, 1 June 2004

image for New Iraqi President looks, talks tough
The latest Iraqi leader has his own views

BAGDHAD, Iraq -- The tribal leader Ghazi al-Yawar has become the president of Iraq's interim government after a leading candidate favored by the Bush administration refused the position because he said he was "scared sh**less."

The appointment of Mr. Yawar to the ceremonial position broke a deadlock over the composition of the interim government, which will assume power on June 30. Mr. Yawar said, "I am not afraid of anything. Not bombs or terrorists or terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. Not long-nosed rifles or tanks or turbans that go boom in the night. Not suicidal soldiers or extremists or conservatives or people dressed like clowns.

"Not Iranians or Africans with poison spearheads. Not smart bombs or dirty bombs or dirty smart bombers or ghosts of Arab kings or Koran attics or Bible freaks or Vice President Cheney in a swimsuit!"

Meanwhile, Yawar commented on Prime Minister Iyad Alawi's choice of cabinet members, which will include the Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mehdi as finance minister and Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, as foreign minister.

"Who are these guys?" said Mr. Yawar. "I told Iyad I wanted men with easy to pronounce Arab names like mine."

Mr. Alawi responded by saying, "There are no Smiths or Wilsons here, so what does the new President want me to do?"

Mr. Yawar later responded to the comment by talking with reporters. "I'm not asking for much, am I? Couldn't Iyad find some Iraqis with easier names?"

Mr. Alawi later said to reporters, "Why does he call me Iyad and not Mr. Alawi? He doesn't know me or my family. He has never once come to my house for strong coffee or to see my wife or to wish me a good birthday. Yet he calls me Iyad and shows such disrespect."

Mr. Yawar, who heard those comments later, told reporters, "He can call me Ghazi, sure he can. It is an easy first name, just like my last name is easy and his last name is easy and all of his cabinet members' names should be easy. So there."

"Mr. Yawar," said Mr. Alawi even later that day, "should worry first about that look on his face and second about the names of people in my cabinet. What is he trying to look fearless and courageous? He should smile."

"I cannot smile in the wake of such turmoil," Mr. Yawar said the next morning. "I will not smile until Iraq is free and governed by its own people-most of which I hope will have short and easy names to pronounce."

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