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Iraq: Kurdish politician Massoum named president

Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum was named Iraq's new president on Thursday hours after an attack on a prison convoy killed dozens of people, brutally underscoring the challenges faced by the country's leaders as they struggle to form a new government.

Massoum, 76, one of the founders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party led by the previous president, Jalal Talabani, accepted the position after winning two-thirds of the votes, noting the "huge security, political and economic tasks" facing the government.

Last month's rapid advance of the Islamic State extremist group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, has plunged the country into its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 and inflamed already-existing tensions between sectarian and political rivals.

Hours before Massoum was elected, militants fired mortar shells at army bases where detainees facing terrorism charges were being held in Taji, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital. Fearing a jailbreak, authorities evacuated the facilities, officials said.

But as the prisoners were being bussed through a remote area nearby militants attacked again, this time with roadside bombs, igniting a gunbattle that left 52 prisoners and eight soldiers dead, the officials said, adding that another eight soldiers and seven prisoners were wounded.

It was not immediately clear if the prisoners were killed by soldiers or militants, or if the Islamic State group was involved.

Islamic State militants have staged several jailbreaks, including a complex, military-style assault on two Baghdad-area prisons in July 2013 that freed more than 500 inmates.

The vote for president -- a largely ceremonial post previously held by ailing Kurdish leader Talabani - is widely viewed as a step toward achieving consensus among political rivals, seen as necessary for tackling the deteriorating security crisis.

Massoum is considered a soft-spoken moderate, known for keeping good relations with Sunni and Shiite Arab politicians.

He was born in what is now the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil in 1938. He entered politics when he was 16 years old, taking part in Kurdish-organized demonstrations. He joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1964.

From 1973 to 1975 he was the Cairo representative of Kurdish rebels battling the Arab-dominated government in Baghdad, then went on to establish the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan with six Kurdish politicians, including Talabani.

The next step in Iraq's political transition will be for Massoum, who has already officially assumed the title of president, to select a candidate for prime minister to try to form a new government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bloc won the most seats in April elections, but he has faced mounting pressure to step aside, with critics accusing him of monopolizing power and alienating the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities, contributing to the latest unrest.

Al-Maliki has however vowed to remain in the post he has held since 2006.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad earlier Thursday, urging lawmakers to "find a common ground" so they can address the crisis sparked by the rapid advance of the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants across much of northern and western Iraq last month.

At a press conference with al-Maliki, Ban said Iraq is facing an "existential threat," but one that could be overcome if it forms a "thoroughly inclusive government."

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the presidency is held by a Kurd while the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni.

Speaking alongside the U.N. secretary-general, al-Maliki said he is committed to quickly forming a government.

"Despite the fact that we have problems...we are moving at a confident pace to implement the mechanisms of the democratic work," al-Maliki said.

More than a million Iraqis have been displaced this year, many of them fleeing the latest wave of violence, according to the U.N.

Ban strongly condemned the persecution of religious and ethnic minority groups by jihadi militants in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq, and offered continued U.N. support to the refugees fleeing the violence.

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18 killed in train-bus crash in southern India

Join the discussion

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Carl July 24 2014 at 8:58 AM

Getting elected President in Iraq is a little like being made Captain of the Titanic AFTER it hit the Ice Berg! What's the point.....

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
mgt0331 Carl July 24 2014 at 10:14 AM

Best analogy on AOL

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
oldman945 mgt0331 July 24 2014 at 11:29 AM

Let'em kill each other - it's up them -not the rest of the word - I don't think it will ever end. Ongoing forever

Flag 0 rate up
fUK U Carl July 24 2014 at 4:23 PM

The Real men Try and push on.

the faggots wait for help,

You get it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rimit9 July 24 2014 at 9:44 AM

I won't even comment about Obama today, I am so disgusted with his failure to be at the office for which he was elected. He makes me sick!!!

Flag Reply +10 rate up
7 replies
renner1234 July 24 2014 at 11:03 AM

Turmoil in the world because Obama the community organizer who left Iraq before the government was stable and the people knew how to live indecently govern themselves.

If you look how peaceful the world was after WWII, because the US had its presence in many countries around the world.

Even today we still have troops in many countries 70 years later.

Obama gave Iraq 2 years.

Obama is a college educated idiot.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
dawn renner1234 July 24 2014 at 11:20 AM

did YOU say comuinty disrupter ???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
stees4 renner1234 July 24 2014 at 12:36 PM

You are the idiot!! Bush started plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and Obama followed up with those plans, because this is what the American people wanted. If you think that perpetual war is such a good idea, then volunteer to serve in the armed forces of this country.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
fUK U stees4 July 24 2014 at 4:26 PM

Iraq WAS secure, you are lost

Flag 0 rate up
GUNSLINGER July 24 2014 at 9:53 AM

"Remember Our Border Invasion" And rePost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
bronbronco27 July 24 2014 at 12:09 PM

Thats Beverly Leslie from "will and grace" - look out for his 'business partners' especially one named Benji

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Meh... July 24 2014 at 9:25 AM

Headline says they elected a politician!

Oh No! They elected a politician! Have they learned nothing about how crooked politicians are?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
rich Meh... July 24 2014 at 10:19 AM

At least they didn't elect one of our Politicians

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Fred July 24 2014 at 9:23 AM

Bet his bank account will be big and fat in a few weeks time.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
rich Fred July 24 2014 at 10:20 AM

If he lives to see it

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crowland503 July 24 2014 at 9:07 AM

If the piss-poor Muslin-Taliban, White House Sympathizer never elected into office, them a better elected President would have ensured the stationing of 25,000 troops in Iraq! Are you willing to denounce Christianity in order to save your ass in a Muslin/Islam America? Praise Obama the First for his deceit to his oath!!!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
5 replies
cherylvision July 24 2014 at 9:04 AM

Have been hearing good things about the Kurds. If this guy has been in politics in the middle east since he was 16 and still has a smile on his face he might know what he's doing...

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
rich cherylvision July 24 2014 at 10:21 AM

Oh yeah. I'm really optimistic about the barbaric murdering swine population now

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rimit9 cherylvision July 24 2014 at 2:26 PM

He still has his head!! He must be a good negotiator. Not like Kerry, who comes back home with his hat in his hand telling the world what a success he is.

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Carol July 24 2014 at 9:59 AM

Iraq's new President is a Kurd while the prime minister is Shiite and the parliamentary speaker is Sunni ... If they work together as well as the US House, Senate and Congress, Iraq will be back on track in no time at all! Hahaha! Good one

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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