Iraq has taken a major step forward in its transition to democracy. After weeks of debate, the transitional national assembly elected Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to be Iraq's president. Also elected were two vice-presidents: Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shi'ite. Shortly after taking office, President Talabani, chose Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shi'ite leader and physician, to serve as Iraq's new prime minister.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan cited "the commitment of Iraq's new leadership to working toward national unity through peaceful democratic means." Hashim al-Hassani, the speaker of the transitional assembly, said, "This is a new Iraq." And Mohammed Saleh, a resident of Kirkuk, told a reporter, "Jalal Talabani made it to the seat of power, while [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein is sitting in jail."
President Talabani says the new government is committed to fair treatment for all Iraqis:
"It means that there is no discrimination, that all Iraqis, Kurds, Arabs, regardless of their religion or their nationality, they are equal and they have the same right to have the post which they deserve."
According to news reports, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein watched the national assembly proceedings on television from his prison cell. "I imagine he was upset," said Bakhtiar Amin, who served as human rights minister in Iraq's interim government. Mr. Amin said that Saddam Hussein "must have realized that the era of his government was over, and that there was no way he was returning to office."
The new Iraqi government will now begin writing a constitution, continue to train security forces, and work to deliver basic services. In a statement released by the White House, President George W. Bush said, "The Iraqi people have shown their commitment to democracy and we, in turn, are committed to Iraq." The U.S., said Mr. Bush, looks forward "to working with this new government and we congratulate all Iraqis on this historic day."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.