WHEN commenting last Saturday about the appointment of Iyad Allawi as prime minister of the interim Iraqi government, I said that it was to be hoped that further appointments would be conducted in a more orderly and acceptable way. It was a vain hope. Yesterday's installation of Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar as president took place in an atmosphere of intrigue and pressure that might at first sight seem to presage a difficult progress to a democratic future in Iraq. However, what has emerged quite clearly from both Iyad Allawi's and Ghazi Yawar's appointments is that in the dying moments of its authority the Iraq Governing Council, appointed by the United States and long regarded as an impotent instrument of the Coalition powers, asserted itself to ensure that prominent and independent-minded Iraqi leaders should take the country forward to the elections for a National Assembly due in about six months.

The United States wanted the veteran former foreign minister Adnan Pachachi to become president but he withdrew his name when he realised that he had little support in the Governing Council. It may be worth recalling that when discussions began some months ago about the form that the interim government should take, one possible solution was that the Governing Council should re-form itself as the government on July 1. That idea found little favour but the members of the Council have cleverly ensured that they had the last word after all.

The role and influence of the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in these developments is unclear. His preference was believed to be for an interim government of technocrats rather than political leaders on the grounds that politicians should be elected, not appointed. Only time will tell whether he was right or wrong.