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Full-Term Iraqi Government Finally Approved

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (left) with Deputy Prime Ministers Barham Salih (center) and Salam al-Zawba'i present the cabinet on May 20 (AFP) PRAGUE, May 20, 2006 -- Iraq's parliament has approved the lineup of a new government, the country's first full-term government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, which includes members of the Shi'ite, Kurdish, and Sunni communities.

Incoming Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki read out the names of the 37 men and women he proposed for his cabinet. In a show of hands, lawmakers approved each one.

Rainbow Coalition

Iraq's new national-unity government is made up of representatives from all groups of Iraqi society.

Al-Maliki, a Shi'a, named several Sunnis, including the deputy prime minister, Salam al-Zawba'i. The Kurds are also strongly represented, most notably with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who stays in his post. And there are two women, heading the human rights and women's affairs portfolios.

The government's formation is long overdue, coming more than five months after Iraqis voted in elections. But the challenge it will face was immediately apparent.

Key Posts Left Absent

Last-minute talks over the key posts of interior and defense left those jobs vacant. For now, they'll be filled by al-Maliki and his Sunni deputy, al-Zawba'i.

That angered Sunni lawmakers like Abd al-Nassir al-Janabi. "We entered the political process to find a solution for the security situation, and we agreed that we have to name the minister of defense and interior before forming the government, [but] the name was not agreed upon," he said.

"Therefore, we ask the speaker of the parliament [Mahmud al-Mashhadani] to postpone the announcement of the government until we agree, and we announce now our withdrawal from this session to prove that we don't accept this government," al-Janabi added.

Stability And Security

In his first address, al-Maliki said the top priority for his new administration will be to restore stability and security.

The United States, too, is hoping the new government will calm ongoing violence and pave the way for Washington to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

But underlining the challenge ahead, at least 24 people were killed in violence across the country, including 19 who lost their lives in a bomb blast in Baghdad just hours before the government was approved.

(compiled from agency reports)

RFE/RL Iraq Report

RFE/RL Iraq Report

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