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Opposition leader elected to Baghdad executive council

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Mohammad Al Zubiedi, an Iraqi opposition figure who until recently lived in exile in Britain, told CNN on Thursday that voters in Baghdad have elected him chief of the city's newly formed executive council.

Gen. Jawdat Al Obeidi, senior adviser to Zubiedi, said he was elected vice chairman of the council.

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CNN's Michael Holmes reports Iraqi exile figure Mohammad Al Zubiedi says he has been elected chief of Baghdad's executive council. (April 17)
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CNN's Michael Holmes, who spoke to the two Iraqi leaders, described Zubiedi's position as de facto mayor of Baghdad. Holmes said the men were elected by about 300 community leaders as part of a meeting to set up a civil administration in the city.

Obeidi called it the "first democratic election in Iraq."

Obeidi said "many meetings" were held over the past five days and "hundreds of people" expressed their support for the executive council.

Separately, Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial leader of the once exiled Iraqi National Congress, was in Baghdad Thursday. His spokesman, Zaab Sethna, said Chalabi's first day is being spent meeting with family, members of the INC who have been living here, residents, military officials, university professors and community leaders.

Zubiedi and Obeidi said they both ran against other candidates for positions on the executive council.

Zubiedi said the council seeks support from the United States.

"We are coordinating with U.S. military to meet and discuss issues in Baghdad ... to provide security, hospitals, the medical supplies, food, other issues," he said.

The Baghdad executive council meets at 5 p.m. daily with the U.S. military to address the situation in the Iraqi capital, Zubiedi said.

As head of the city's executive council, Zubiedi's first priority will be to restore security.

"We don't have a timetable, but we actually start our business to control the situation in Baghdad," he said, noting the council has created a police patrol, including a police chief, to coordinate with U.S. forces in Baghdad.

When asked if he would be interested in becoming Iraq's next leader, Zubiedi said, "I'd like to help my nation."

Zubiedi and Obeidi are part of the Iraqi exile movement, supported by the U.S. military in their attempts to set up a local administration in Baghdad, Holmes reported.

However, Iraqis have been traditionally hostile to the idea of being led by Iraqi exiles who have avoided many of the hardships under Saddam Hussein's regime as well as U.N. sanctions.

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