No security ministers in new Iraqi cabinet

AFP, Sunday 19 Dec 2010

In an announcement on Monday, the Iraqi prime minister will assume responsibilty for the country's security as ministry positions remain unfilled

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will take charge of the country’s security when he unveils his cabinet on Monday, sources said on Sunday.

Politicians ascribe the reason for this delay to the sensitivity of the posts and the need for consensus on the three relevant jobs - heading the ministries of interior, defence and national security.

"These three ministries need more time and study because of the sensitivity of the posts," said an aide to the prime minister, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Everyone must agree on the candidates and the nominees must be acceptable, and that needs more time."

Maliki will, in the meantime, "head a government of 38 ministers and ministers of state,” said Khalid al-Assadi, an MP in the coalition government who is viewed as close to the prime minister.

"The ministers will be chosen by Maliki from among a field of candidates and he will present his choices to all the parties for their agreement because these ministers cannot be party political," Assadi added.

The naming of the government, which must be considered by parliament and approved by Saturday, is the final step in ending the protracted political impasse that has persisted since inconclusive elections were held on March 7. It also comes with a year to go before US troops must withdraw from Iraq entirely.

Maliki has, in the past, been accused by critics of trying to consolidate his grip on power by grouping increasing responsibilities, in particular intelligence and security, under the office of the prime minister.

Maliki's State of Law coalition won 89 seats in the elections, two fewer than the Iraqiya bloc of ex-premier Iyad Allawi. But neither won enough for a parliamentary majority, triggering the impasse.

Maliki was named prime minister-designate on November 25, after a power-sharing deal was agreed between Iraq's divided factions, and given 30 days to form a cabinet.

According to Assadi, the National Alliance, a Maliki-led pan-Shiite coalition, will control 17 ministries, while Iraqiya will hold nine. The Kurdish bloc will retain seven, with the remainder being divided among other smaller groupings.

As a condition for agreeing to the deal, Allawi demanded that pre-election bans on several of his bloc's members for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime be overturned, and a new statutory body be created, with him at helm, to oversee security matters.

Following discussions, three Iraqiya members had their bans overturned in parliament on Saturday by a vote of 109-61. Lifting the ban on a fourth politician was delayed but is expected to happen in the coming days. Iraq's Council of Representatives has 325 seats, with 163 required to be in attendance for any legislation to pass.

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