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Iraqi Prime Minister-Designate Struggles to Meet Deadline to Form Cabinet


Iraq's prime minister-designate is struggling to meet a May 22 deadline to form his cabinet, the final step in establishing a national unity government for the war-torn country.

Nouri al-Maliki had been expected to announce his new cabinet Thursday, but disagreements among political leaders on who should head the oil, interior and defense ministries has slowed formation of the new cabinet.

The disagreements broke out into the open when the Fadhila party, which is one of seven groups in the main Shi'ite alliance, said it would not join the cabinet to protest the way posts were being selected. A spokesman said selection of ministers was being dictated by personal interests and pressure from the United States.

Earlier, Iraqi politicians said a dispute within the Shi'ite alliance over the post of oil minister was holding up the announcement of a new government.

In Washington Friday, President Bush said perhaps the biggest challenge facing the new Iraqi government will be reining in militias to ensure security in the country.

In the latest violence in Iraq, a car bomb went off near the offices of Mr. Maliki's Dawa party in Baghdad, but there were no reports of casualties or damage.

In the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Basra, gunmen killed a Sunni imam as he left a mosque after Friday prayers.

In other news, Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani is in Kuwait at the start of a foreign tour in which he will also visit China to meet with high-ranking officials there.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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