BASRA, 7 July 2003 — A 31-member provisional council in southeastern Iraq has elected Shiite Judge Wail Abdul Latif to serve as governor of the city of Basra, the occupying coalition authority said yesterday.
“The council held two secret ballots to elect an interim governor and deputy interim governor of Basra province” on Saturday, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) — Southern Region said.
“Election of a governor who will represent the views of the people of Basra province to CPA, advise CPA on policy matters, and co-chair the Basra province technical committee is a very significant step on the road toward self-governance to the people of southern Iraq,” he added.
A former chief of police, Mezher Khairallah, was elected deputy interim governor, the CPA said.
Abdul Latif, 53, said his top priority was to improve the security situation in the city, which rights groups have warned has been spiraling out of control since the occupation began three months ago.
“We have to cooperate with those coalition forces at this time because we need security,” Abdul Latif said.
“They will also support the new interim government with money,” he said. “The finances of the new government cannot adequately supply the institutions without (coalition) help.”
The new governor has served as a judge since 1982 and is currently deputy head of the Basra court. He was imprisoned for a year by the secret police forces of deposed President Saddam Hussein, whose Baath Party regime was ousted from power in the US-led war, the CPA said.