is one of a US-backed clique of secular Iraq
i opposition figures who lived in exile until the fall of Saddam Hussein
's regime in April 2003.
But he has the advantage as prime minister - to paraphrase one commentator - of being equally mistrusted by everyone in Iraq's multifarious population.
Religious leaders think he is too secular, the US-led coalition now sees him as a critic, for the anti-Saddam opposition he is an ex-Baathist, while ordinary Iraqis say he is a CIA man.
Born in 1945 to a prominent Shia Muslim merchant family, Mr Allawi trained as a neurologist and joined the
Baath party underground movement as a young man.
But when the party came to power, he fell out with the rising hard man Saddam Hussein in the early 1970s and was forced to go into exile.
He was badly wounded in an assassination attempt while living in the UK in 1978, believed to have been ordered by Saddam Hussein.
Mr Allawi went on to co-found the
Iraqi National Accord (INA) party, which is known for attracting disillusioned former Baathists from the military and security fields.
From its foundation in 1991, with the backing of the
US Central Intelligence Agency and
British intelligence, the group supported the idea of fostering a coup from within the Iraqi army to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but its attempts ended disastrously.
Correspondents say Mr Allawi is well-connected politically in Washington and London, has extensive business dealings and has close relations with
Saudi Arabia and
Since joining the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, he has publicly opposed the purging of members of Baath party from government positions.
His work has been focused on running the IGC's security committee, which has been responsible for building up the new
Iraqi army, police and intelligence service.