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Iraq Has Government, Next Leader Declares

Jafari Withholds Names of Ministers

By Caryle Murphy and Khalid Saffar
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 28, 2005; Page A16

BAGHDAD, April 27 -- Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Jafari ended three months of political paralysis Wednesday by announcing he had formed a government and would ask the newly elected National Assembly to approve it.

The proposed cabinet reflects Iraq's religious and ethnic diversity and was agreed upon after tortuous negotiations between Jafari's predominantly Shiite coalition, which controls a majority of seats in the parliament, and representatives of the Kurdish and Sunni Arab communities.

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The announcement raised hopes that the political drift in the Iraqi capital, which appeared to have given new life to the insurgency, was coming to an end. But in a sign of both security concerns and lingering disagreements, Jafari did not release the names of his proposed ministers.

Promising that the new cabinet would be "an institution working for the people, not becoming merely its ruler," Jafari said he realized it had been a long wait, especially "in view of the continuing loss of life at the hands of the terrorists." But he added that the interval was necessary "to have a nationalist government that reflects and represents all the components of the Iraqi people."

At a news conference outside his office in Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone, Jafari said he had formally submitted his ministers' names to President Jalal Talabani. The list needs the unanimous approval of Talabani and his two vice presidents before it goes to the 275-seat assembly.

The assembly speaker, Hachim Hasani, said in an interview that he was informed that the parliament would be asked to approve the cabinet Thursday, adding that he expected lawmakers to do so without much debate. "I hope things will start moving," he said.

"I do not anticipate any problem in this list going through," said Jafari's spokesman, Laith Kubba.

The proposed cabinet has 31 members, with a minister of tourism likely to be added later, Kubba said. The bulk of the seats will be filled by Shiite Arabs, with the rest divided between Kurds and Sunni Arabs. One minister is to be Christian, and seven will be women.

Jafari will also ask the assembly to approve at least three, and perhaps four, deputy prime ministers. Party officials have said one of the deputies will be Ahmed Chalabi, a secular Shiite leader and onetime favorite of the Pentagon. Another deputy prime minister will be a Sunni Arab.

Sunni Arabs largely boycotted Iraq's landmark elections in January and have just 17 seats in the parliament. But the Shiites and Kurds have asked Sunnis to join the government in the hope that it will help defuse the Sunni-led insurgency.

There were indications, however, that negotiations continued late Wednesday over a couple of key portfolios reserved for Sunni Arabs.

Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni negotiator, said Jafari's predominantly Shiite United Iraqi Alliance had not accepted the Sunni nominee for defense minister. The Sunnis' position, Mutlak added, is that "if you want to interfere with our choice for minister of defense, then we want to interfere with your choice for minister of interior."

In addition, the Sunni negotiating team has asked Jafari for written assurances on four issues before he releases the names of the seven Sunni Arabs slated to join the new government, according to Mutlak.

The Sunni demands, Mutlak said, are that the new government halt the removal of former Baath Party members from government jobs, bring Sunni officers back to the army, move quickly to repair war-wracked cities such as Fallujah and release detainees, including those held by U.S. forces.

"Nearly all the points they raised are valid," Kubba said.

Jafari noted the serious issues awaiting the government's attention, including security, unemployment, reconstruction, corruption and the drafting of a constitution. "We look forward to starting the government so that the wheel of reconstruction will start to move and the people feel and see that the situation is improving," he said.

In a busy commercial strip of the middle-class neighborhood of Karrada, many shops had televisions on as Jafari held his early evening news conference. "If you will excuse me for a minute, I just want to see if Jafari will announce the ministers' names," said Sana Rafid, 38, an employee in an optical shop. "Oh, he did not do it. Well, we have been waiting for almost three months. We can wait one more day."

In another development, the U.S. military reported that a recent double suicide bombing against police recruits in Tikrit did not deter prospective police officers.

The bombers, who killed at least six police trainees, struck as 300 recruits were gathering Sunday for a trip to a training academy in Jordan. Because of the attack, their departure was postponed for two days. When the recruits showed up the second time, a military source said, their numbers had grown to 317.

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company