Iraqi Lawmakers Stalled on Ministries, in Accord on Safer Cars

By Nelson Hernandez and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 29, 2006

BAGHDAD, May 28 -- The Iraqi parliament remained deadlocked Sunday over who should lead the country's critical security ministries, but lawmakers agreed that each of the 275 members needs two new cars.

Responding to the danger all Iraqi politicians face -- many have been threatened or attacked -- some members suggested that everyone receive a $100,000 grant to purchase two armored cars, according to lawmakers who attended the closed-door meeting. This was quickly shot down by others who said handing out cash might anger constituents.

"We cannot award a car to a member of parliament, or simply a grant for $100,000, because this cannot be sold to the public," Abdul al-Hassani, a member of parliament, said in a telephone interview. "The reputation of parliament would be dented."

After much debate, the lawmakers decided the government would purchase cars and give them to lawmakers. The make and model, and whether one or both cars would be armored, was left up to the parliament speaker and his two deputies. But it is clear that the project will be an expensive undertaking, especially if the cars are armored, as Hassani prefers.

The U.S. company Black Armor, whose Web site asks, "Are you important? Do people wearing ski masks have a propensity to discharge firearms in your general direction?" charges $142,000 for a handsome, bulletproof Mercedes S500. Less expensive models include the Chevy Suburban ($110,000), the Lincoln Town Car ($100,000) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee ($95,000).

Even if the Iraqi government could get the cost down to $50,000 per car, the measure would cost the state $27.5 million.

The need for the cars gained broad support among the Shiite Muslim, Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secular factions of parliament, who said they were still troubled by the decision.

"We really face a dilemma," said Hassani, a Shiite politician. "We need a car for the lack of security. We need something to protect the members of parliament, to fill our obligations to the nation. On the other hand, the people of Iraq will see that it is really extravagant to use it for our own interests."

Meanwhile, parliament has not resolved who will lead the country's Interior and Defense ministries, which control the police and army. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, filled most of the rest of his cabinet posts at a parliament meeting May 20. At the time, he said the remaining positions would be filled within a week.

"The whole thing is on the table now," said Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, a Shiite politician in Maliki's party. "It might be tomorrow or the day after. It all depends on who will lay down his objection."

At least seven Iraqis died in violence around the country on Sunday, according to police and news reports. A Sunni politician's bodyguard, Jasim Mohammed Ameen, said there was also heavy fighting near Duluiyah, a village about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and said that 20 Iraqi soldiers and 18 insurgent attackers were killed.

Gunmen killed a prominent Sunni tribal leader who had cooperated with U.S. forces in their fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq, the country's most prominent insurgent organization. They ambushed Osama al-Jadaan, head of the Karabila tribe, while he drove through Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, according to reports on Arab-language television.

Jadaan had openly vowed to hunt down insurgents in the violent, predominantly Sunni Arab region west of Baghdad. In his last public statement, he said that he had helped Jordanian agents capture an al-Qaeda operative who later confessed to the murder of a truck driver.

Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi and Naseer Nouri in Baghdad and Hassan Shammari in Baqubah contributed to this report.

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