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Iraq Elects First Government Since Saddam Hussein

  • Neil MacDonald

Iraq has its first elected government since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's interim National Assembly has approved a partial Cabinet list, giving the country its first elected government since U.S.-led coalition forces ousted Saddam Hussein two years ago.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took his 36-name list to the Presidency Council for approval yesterday. But last-minute opposition forced further changes.

Following January 30 elections, Mr. Jaafari struggled to form a consensus between Iraq's Shia Arab majority and its Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities.

Speaker Hajim al-Hassani, who read the final list to the elected assembly, said two out of four deputy prime ministerships were left empty. The list also includes only 27 full cabinet ministers, while acting ministers cover five contentious posts.

Prime Minister Jaafari will handle the defense portfolio himself, after his Shia-dominated majority bloc rejected several Sunni candidates.

The Shia bloc prevented the inclusion of several Sunnis allegedly linked to Saddam's former Baath regime.

Mr. Jaafari's two deputies - one Shia, one Kurdish - are also the acting ministers for oil and electricity.

The gaps in the cabinet show that Iraq's main ethnic factions still could not agree on key decision-making positions. But after three-months of haggling, approval of the partial list came quickly.

Minutes after the speaker read out the names, Assembly members approved the list with an overwhelming show of hands. Of the 185 members in the hall, 180 raised their hands in favor of the new cabinet.

Assembly members cheered loudly as Speaker Hassani announced the approval of Iraq's new government.

The vote came on Saddam Hussein's 68th birthday. Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi said the timing was coincidental.