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Iraq Parliament Approves National-Unity Government

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Source: AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Iraq’s parliament approved the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who vowed to pursue national reconciliation, after nine months of post-election wrangling.

Al-Maliki told parliament he kept the defense, interior and national security posts and distributed seven portfolios to other ministers until an agreement with political groups is reached on candidates for the jobs. Lawmakers approved a lineup of 35 nominees including a new oil minister and three deputy prime ministers representing the country’s main communities -- the majority Shiite Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds.

“This government of national unity represents all entities making up the Iraqi people,” the Shiite prime minister said. “We have to work hand in hand in this government of national unity to serve the people who suffered from years of dictatorship, deprivation and destruction.”

Political paralysis and disputes followed the March 7 parliamentary elections, which produced no clear winner. The Iraqi government will have to deal with violence, a struggling economy and long-standing disputes over internal boundaries and rights to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Lack of Trust

“The fact that it is a large government may slow things on a day-to-day basis, but there was no other way as the communities don’t trust each other,” Ali al-Saffar, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said in a telephone interview. “A large government including all parties would also be a good thing to oversee the departure of the U.S. troops.”

Al-Maliki vowed to spur economic and social rebuilding projects to help stabilize the country. He said his government will fight terrorism, and build strong army and security forces that will help Iraq regain full sovereignty once American forces are withdrawn by the end of 2011.

During today’s session, the government received the backing of all political groups in the parliament, including the predominantly Sunni bloc of al-Maliki’s rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who called for a “true partnership.”

Parliament approved the nomination of Deputy Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi to head the Oil Ministry, backed Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to retain his post, and approved Deputy Prime Minister Rafih al-Issawi to lead the Finance Ministry.

‘Ambitious’ Energy Plans

Al- Luaibi vowed today to pursue “ambitious” oil and gas exploration to increase output, helping to fund the state budget and improve living standards. He replaces Hussain al-Shahristani, who is now a deputy prime minister and interim electricity minister.

The new oil minister, in an interview with state-run al-Iraqiyah television after the new government was sworn in, said output at the country’s Rumailah field increased 10 percent in a year, instead of the planned three years.

Al-Luaibi, a political independent, oversaw two rounds of oil licenses last year, an Oil Ministry official, Sabah Abdel Kadhim al-Saadi, said in a telephone interview from Baghdad late yesterday. As deputy oil minister, al-Luaibi had been in charge of exploration and production. He graduated in petroleum studies from Baghdad University and worked at the Dora refinery, south of Baghdad, before becoming deputy oil minister, al-Saadi said.

“Given that Al-Luaibi is a long-time employee of the Oil Ministry he is unlikely to change policies, and so this will reassure oil companies,” Al-Saffar said.

Seeks Investment

Iraq, holder of the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, wants foreign investors to help it boost production of crude and gas. Output of both has suffered from insurgent attacks and a lack of investment since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country. Seeking to end the stagnation, the government has awarded 12 oil contracts and three gas licenses.

Under the constitution, al-Maliki had 30 days in which to name a Cabinet after being asked to form a government for his second term in office by President Jalal Talabani on Nov. 25.

Al-Maliki had pledged to form his government by Dec. 15. The prime minister’s delay in announcing the Cabinet reflects difficulties in creating a government that includes all of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups.

Allawi had threatened several times not to participate in a al-Maliki-led government, claiming the premier had stolen the elections. His Iraqiyah bloc was backed mostly by Sunni and secular voters. As part of the coalition deal, Allawi was named to head the new National Council for Strategic Policies.

Al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance won 89 seats in the March elections, while Iraqiyah secured 91 seats and Kurdish parties took 43. State of Law merged with former Shiite rivals afterward to form the Iraqi National Alliance, gaining a combined total of 159 seats, and was later able to draw in lawmakers from other groups to get the 163 seats needed for a governing coalition in the 325-seat parliament.

     The following list of nominees was read out by al-Maliki
during the parliament vote:

1. Nuri al-Maliki: prime minister, interim minister of defense,
interior, national security
2. Roz Nuri Shawis: deputy prime minister, interim trade
3. Hussain al-Shahristani: deputy prime minister, interim
electricity minister
4. Saleh Mutlaq: deputy prime minister
5. Abul Kareem al-Luaibi: oil minister
6. Hoshyar Zebari: foreign affairs minister, interim women’s
affairs minister
7. Rafih al-Issawi: finance minister
8. Ali al-Adib: higher education, scientific research minister,
interim state minister for national interests
9. Hadi al-Ameri: transportation minister
10. Mohamad Ali Tamim: education minister
11. Majid Mohamad Amin: health minister
12. Ahmad Nasser Delli: industry and minerals minister
13. Ezzedin Abdallah Hussein: agriculture minister
14. Muhannad Salman as-Saadi: water resources minister
15. Mohamad Sahib al-Darraji: reconstruction and housing
minister, interim municipality and public works minister
16. Jassem Mohamad Jaafar: sports, youth minister
17. Hassan al-Shummari: justice minister
18. Mohamad Tawfiq Allawi: telecommunication minister
19. Nassar al-Rubae: labor, social affairs minister, interim
planning minister
20. Abdul Kareem Ali Yassin: science, technology minister
21. Sarkoun Lazar Salaywa: environment minister
22. Saadun al-Dulaimi: culture minister
23. Liwaa Smaissem: tourism, antiquities minister
24. Mohamad al-Soudani: human rights minister
25. Din Dar Najman Shafiq: emigration and immigrants minister,
interim state minister for civil society affairs
26. Ali al-Sajri: state minister for foreign affairs
27. Safaaeddin al-Safi: state minister for parliament affairs
28. Ali al-Dabbagh: state minister, government spokesman
29. Torhan Muzhar Hassan: state minister for provincial affairs
30. Hassan as-Sari: state minister without portfolio
31. Bushra Hussein Saleh: state minister without portfolio
32. Diaa Nejm al-Assadi: state minister without portfolio
33. Abdel Mahdi Hassan al-Matayri: state minister without
34. Yassin Hassan Mohamad Ahmad: state minister without
35. Salah Muzahem Darwish: state minister without portfolio

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