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Shiite scientist may head Iraq: Post
A correspondent in Washington | May 26, 2004 04:51 IST
The United Nations is planning to get a nuclear scientist, Hussain Shahristani, to be prime minister in the new Iraqi government, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Shahristani has spent many decades of the Saddam regime in the Abu Ghraib prison for refusing to participate in Iraq's nuclear program.
According to the Post, Shahristani said, "If they consider my participation essential, I'll try to convince them otherwise. But if they're not convinced and they ask me to take a role . . . I cannot refuse. I must serve my people."
Shahristani may have no political experience but he is reportedly close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the powerful Shiite religious leader. He describes himself only as an adviser to Sistani though he had met the cleric many times since the fall of the earlier dispensation, the paper reported.
Iraqi officials told the Post that Shahristani's lack of political ties could help him mediate between various factions in the run-up to the elections early next year.
Shahristani, a PhD in nuclear chemistry, was chief scientific adviser to Iraq's atomic energy commission until 1979, when Hussein took over as president. When Shahristani refused to work on nuclear weapons instead of nuclear power, Hussein ordered him jailed, the newspaper reported.
He escaped the prison in 1991 and fled with his wife and three children to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, from where they moved to Iran and finally to Britain, the Post reported, adding that he now does humanitarian work in Karbala and the southern port of Basra.