Before and After

Saddam Hussein watched the televised election of Iraq’s new president from his jail cell yesterday and was “clearly upset”, a senior official said.

Jalal Talabani, a former Kurdish guerrilla commander and sworn enemy of Saddam, was elected to the highest office in a parliamentary ballot, bringing a new government a step closer.

Under Saddam the only way Mr Talabani would have left his northern redoubt was in chains or a coffin, but yesterday he arrived in Baghdad in a blaze of triumph.

…..Mr Talabani, the first non-Arab President of an Arab state, was chosen by the Iraqi parliament after prolonged and rancorous negotiations between the Kurdish, Shia and Sunni communities.

People danced and waved the Kurdish flag in the streets of Kurdish towns and villages as the news was announced.

…..”After being liberated from the most hideous of dictatorships … our people – the Arabs, the Kurds, the Turkmen and the Assyrians – want to build a new Iraq free from dictatorship and and tyranny, a democratic, unified Iraq,” said Mr Talabani in a speech after his election.