Morning Report: February 22, 2005

Iran earthquake leaves hundreds dead. According to the latest news reports, at least 270 people are reported dead in an earthquake near Zarand in central Iran. More on this as it develops. (Fox)

Iraq: Ibrahim al-Jafari likely next PM; Chalabi withdraws. AP via USA Today reports: 'Interim Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari was chosen Tuesday to be his Shiite ticket's candidate for prime minister after Ahmad Chalabi dropped his bid, senior alliance officials said. Pressure from within the ranks of the winning United Iraqi Alliance forced the withdrawal of Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon favorite, said Hussein al-Moussawi from the Shiite Political Council, an umbrella group for 38 Shiite parties.' CNN reports: 'The United Iraqi Alliance, Iraq's main Shiite political coalition, has named Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee to be the country's next prime minister, an Iraqi political official said. The official, a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said that Ahmad Chalabi, another candidate for the post, dropped out of consideration. Al-Jaafari told CNN last week that he would accept the prime minister position if he was offered it. Asked whether he would support an Iraq based on an Islamic republic model, al-Jaafari noted that Iraq's government would reflect its distinct personality: "We have to adapt our system according to the character and nature of our society." He said "security, services and the economy" are the main arenas that need attention. The 58-year-old doctor maintains popularity in Iraq and is viewed as a moderate.' (USA Today, CNN)