The Iraqi Governing Council has sworn in the country's first ministerial cabinet since the fall of Saddam Hussein, urging it to help restore stability and prosperity to the country. The event took place as U.S. military commanders transferred security responsibilities in the Najaf area to an international force led by Poland.
A senior leader of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ibrahim Jafari, Wednesday swore in the 25-member Iraqi cabinet.
In his remarks, Mr. Jafari urged the ministers to work diligently for the good of the people, that security may prevail in all of Iraq and the standard of living may rise in accordance with the country's wealth.
The cabinet reflects the sectarian and ethnic make-up of the Iraqi population. It includes 13 Shiite Muslim ministers, five Sunni Muslims, five Kurds, one Turkoman and one Christian.
The cabinet includes several newly created ministries. Iraq's new minister for human rights, Abdul Basset Turki, took his oath, with English translation for the foreign dignitaries.
"I swear by Almighty Allah to devote my utmost, to serve and to protect Iraq, its people, land and sovereignty. And Allah is my witness," they pledged.
The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, told reporters before the ceremony that the ministers will answer to the Iraqi Governing Council and not to the foreign advisors he has appointed.
"The governing council supervises the ministers. This is an important step forward, as I said, it's a very important step on the path to a fully sovereign Iraqi government," Mr. Bremer said. " The ministers will have full executive authority and they are responsible to the governing council."
However coalition officials say that the ministers will consult with the coalition-advisors on policy and strategic matters.
In a separate development, U.S. military commanders Wednesday handed over responsibility for security in central Iraq's Najaf region to an international force led by Poland. But they say patrols by U.S. Marines will continue in Najaf city for several weeks.
Tensions in Najaf are still running high, five days after a bomb attack killed more than 80 people at the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf - including a senior Shiite Muslim leader, Ayatollah Mohamed Baqir Hakim.
Tens of thousands of mourners Tuesday attended the Ayatollah's burial in Najaf. Many blamed loyalists of the deposed Saddam Hussein regime for the attack. Others said they hold the American-led coalition forces responsible because these are supposed to maintain security in the country. Iraqi police say they have arrested more than a dozen people, including several non-Iraqis, in connection with the attack.