After hours of closed-door meetings, members of the United Iraqi Alliance agreed to hold a secret ballot to choose between Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi, most likely on Friday, said Ali Hashim al-Youshaa, one of the alliance’s leaders.
The contrast between the two candidates is stark and reveals a division within the clergy-endorsed alliance, made up of 10 major political parties and various allied smaller groups.
Al-Jaafari, 58, is the leader of the religious Dawa Party, one of Iraq (news – web sites)’s oldest parties, known for its popularity and close ties to Iran. Although al-Jaafari is a moderate, his party’s platform is conservative.
Chalabi, 58, who left Iraq as a teen, leads the Iraqi National Congress and had close ties to the Pentagon (news – web sites) before falling out of favor last year after claims he passed intelligence information to Iran.
A secular Shiite, Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella for groups that included Iraqi exiles, Kurds and Shiites. Much of the intelligence his group supplied on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs failed to pan out.