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Prime Minister al-Maliki still faces many challenges in keeping his coalition together (epa)
May 21, 2006 -- Iraq's new national-unity government held its first cabinet meeting today under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki told journalists later that he will try to reduce public support for insurgent groups by promoting national reconciliation, improving the country's collapsing infrastructure, and setting up a special protection force for Baghdad.
He pledged his government will use "maximum force" in confronting the insurgents who are continuing to shed blood in Iraq.
The government, approved by parliament on May 20, has taken five months to put together. It is Iraq's first full-term government since the U.S.-led toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Nuri al-Maliki (epa)
NURI KAMIL AL-MALIKI (Jawad al-Maliki is a nom de guerre) was born in 1950 in the Twayrij al-Hindiyah district of Karbala.
Commonly known as Abu Isra, al-Maliki joined the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party in 1968.
He holds an M.A. in Koran and Arabic Language Studies from Salah al-Din University in Irbil.
Following a crackdown on outlawed parties by the regime of Saddam Hussien, al-Maliki fled the country in 1980, seeking asylum first in Iran and later in Syria.
While in Syria, he also published a magazine -- "Al-Mawqif" ("The Attitude") -- that became the mouthpiece of the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party.
For several years, al-Maliki served as the head of jihad and military operations for the party, subsequently becoming a member of its political bureau.
Following the liberation of Iraq, he served as deputy director of the de-Ba'athification commission established by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
In 2004, al-Maliki was elected deputy speaker of the interim National Assembly.
He played a leading role in settling the August 2004 crisis in Al-Najaf when supporters of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr battled coalition forces for three weeks.
In 2005, he served as chairman of the transitional National Assembly's Security and Defense Committee. He was also a member of the committe responsible for drafting Iraq's new constitution.
He has also served as a spokesman for transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and as spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance.
More about al-Maliki:
Premier-Designate Promises Tough Approach
Tough Challenges Face New Prime Minister
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