Iraq profile

President: Fuad Masum

Fuad Masum Fuad Masum was elected president in July 2014

Veteran Iraqi politician Fuad Masum was overwhelmingly elected by Iraqi lawmakers on 24 July 2014 as the second Kurdish president of Iraq, succeeding Jalal Talabani.

Hailing from an established patriotic and religious dynasty and born in 1938, he is the son of Sheikh Mulla Masum who served as the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Kurdistan.

He studied law and law at Baghdad University, and worked as a teacher in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Basra in 1968 and a lecturer in the Faculties of Law and Education at the same university.

Fuad is a founding member of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, and served as the party's representative in Damascus and London.

He was appointed prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992, and served as the speaker of the Iraqi national assembly between 2004 and 2005 following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Described in the Iraqi media as a moderate Kurdish figure, he holds close ties with parties and groups across the Iraqi political spectrum.

Outgoing prime minister: Nouri al-Maliki

Nouri al-Maliki, a former rebel who led the first full-time government after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, was picked for a second term as prime minister in November 2010.

Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki

Nouri al-Maliki organised resistance against Saddam Hussein and is serving his second term as premier

He was chosen by parliament under a power-sharing agreement after the inconclusive elections of March 2010. Mr al-Maliki's Shia-backed State of Law coalition came second in the poll, after the Sunni Al-Iraqiya alliance of former premier Iyad Allawi.

The national unity government that was approved by parliament in December 2010 included all major factions. It has proved to be fragile and riven by tensions between the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish blocs.

At the end of 2011, there were fears of renewed sectarian conflict as the government looked like it might collapse. An arrest warrant was issued for the Sunni deputy vice president, Tareq al-Hashimi, over alleged links to terrorism - accusations which he denied.

Observers said it appeared that Mr al-Maliki was trying to consolidate his grip on power by pushing out top Sunni politicians.

Born in 1950, Mr al-Maliki fled a death sentence for his political activism in 1980 and lived in exile in Syria and Iran, working for the opposition Shia Islamic Dawa Party.

He returned to Iraq after the US-led invasion of 2003 and became a member of the de-Baathification commission that removed Saddam supporters from public office.

He was relatively unknown internationally until he was nominated for the premiership in May 2006, after the Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties objected to the reappointment of prime minister Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari.

He struggled to control a fractious government forged of fragile alliances and his first two years in office were marked by rampant bloodshed. He emerged stronger after sending the army to fight Shia militia and presiding over a sharp fall in overall violence, but a resurgence of Sunni extremist attacks on Shias and Christians made 2013 the bloodiest year since 2007.

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