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Scientist declines top Iraq post

From CNN U.N. Producer Liz Neisloss

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Lakhdar Brahimi

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- An Iraqi nuclear scientist who had been proposed for a top job with the interim government does not want a role, a spokesman for the United Nations top political envoy in Iraq said Wednesday in a statement.

In addition to removing himself from possible consideration as prime minister, Hussain al-Shahristani removed himself from consideration for any government post, according to the statement, from U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

The United Nations said Brahimi met Shahristani several times and "has no doubt that Mr. Shahristani could serve his country well in a number of positions in government. ... Mr. Shahristani, however, has himself clarified that he would prefer to serve his country in other ways."

Senior administration officials had leaked Shahristani's name Tuesday as a candidate for the job of prime minister.

Brahimi said such leaks could jeopardize the high-stakes process of naming the interim Iraqi government that is to take over when the occupation ends June 30.

Brahimi hopes to conclude his work "very soon, so that the new government will have sufficient time to prepare to assume power."

The statement said Brahimi "remains reluctant to provide more details at this delicate stage -- including any commentary on names -- so as not to risk undermining the process or putting individuals in compromising positions."

Asked about the process of selecting candidates for the Iraqi interim government, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Brahimi is "not imposing names; he has picked up names from talking to a wide spectrum of Iraqi opinion.

"He is floating those names, getting reactions from groups, factions and individuals, so it's a process of weeding out a very large list of names to find the core names that everyone can agree on."

U.N. officials have said Brahimi is hoping to have his list of 30 individuals -- topped by a prime minister, a president and two vice presidents -- put together by the end of May or early June.

U.S. President George W. Bush announced in a speech Monday that Brahimi would reveal the slate of Iraqi officials this week.

However, the senior administration official said the United Nations may not be able finalize the names by the end of the week because the negotiations among the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis have been difficult.


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