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Iraqi Leaders Give 6 Cabinet Posts to Sunnis

With Pressure Mounting To Form Government, Breakthrough Achieved

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 27, 2005; Page A16

BAGHDAD, April 27 -- Iraq's new Kurdish and Shiite Arab political leaders agreed to a cabinet split Tuesday, giving six posts to the holdout Sunni Arab minority, top politicians involved in the negotiations said.

Who those Sunnis would be remained publicly unresolved, as did other final elements of the agreement.


Iraqis line up to receive medicine from the U.S. Army at a village clinic in northern Iraq, where medical personnel examined 100 patients. (Sasa Kralj -- Assocated Press)

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Armored U.S. military convoys shuttled political party chiefs back and forth between their houses and their offices in Baghdad's tree-lined, concrete-bunkered Green Zone for day-long negotiations, under steady U.S. and Iraqi pressure to close the deal.

Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni negotiators said early Wednesday that the sessions brought a breakthrough on how the cabinet, which has more than 30 seats, would be divided among factions. The selection of individual appointees was continuing, they said.

The day ended with another pledge from party leaders that an announcement on the makeup of Iraq's new government was imminent, nearly three months after national elections.

Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Jafari appeared "confident enough to finish the job in two days' time," said Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister in the outgoing interim government, who is slated to take the same post in the next government. However, Zebari cautioned, "Take nothing for granted."

Laith Kubba, one of Jafari's advisers, and other negotiators said the cabinet could be presented Thursday to the National Assembly for approval, which requires a simple majority.

Iraqis elected the 275-seat assembly on Jan. 30. It is responsible for creating a new constitution, but haggling over top posts in the coalition government has exhausted more than one-fourth of its mandated 11-month term.

Iraq's interim government, which was appointed last June, is staying on in the meantime. U.S. officials are pushing Iraqi leaders to get the elected government in place so that it can address problems such as a resurgence of insurgent attacks this month.

Politicians said Tuesday's accord gives Shiites 17 cabinet posts, with eight going to Kurds, six to Sunni Arabs and one to a Christian.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's bloc, which had asked for at least four ministries, was absent from the proposed cabinet.

A coalition of Shiites, who make up a majority of Iraq's population, won the most votes in the January elections, and an alliance of Kurds finished second. The minority Sunni Arabs, whose longtime grip on power was broken with the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, largely boycotted the elections and received only enough votes for 17 assembly seats.

Iraqi leaders have said they want to bring Sunnis into the government and out of the Sunni-led insurgency.

"The offer is very, very generous, taking into account they have not participated in elections and some of them stood on the sidelines," said Zebari, an ethnic Kurd. "We've gone the extra mile to include them."


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