Iraqi lawmakers have approved the critical security posts of defense minister and interior minister in Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi's government, completing the formation of a new cabinet amid the fight against the Islamic State group.
Parliament Saturday voted in Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker from the northern city of Mosul, as the new defense minister. Mohammed al-Ghabban, a Shi'ite lawmaker from a powerful political bloc, was elected interior minister.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the election of the two powerful security ministers a "very positive step forward" in the fight against Islamic State.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke Saturday with Al-Abadi by phone and congratulated him on the new ministers.
Biden said: "For the first time since 2010, Iraq now has a full slate of national security ministers approved by the Council of Representatives."
The U.S. vice president and Al-Abadi also discussed the work ahead, including steps to rebuild Iraq's security forces and enlist all Iraqi communities in the fight against Islamic State militants.
Control over the defense and interior ministries has long been a source of tension among Iraq's feuding political parties.
Inclusion of Sunni minority
The U.S. and other countries have been pushing for a more representative government that can reach out to Iraq's Sunni minority.
Iraqi lawmakers approved most of Abadi's Cabinet last month and officially voted him in as prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki.
Critics say Maliki marginalized Iraq's Sunnis, helping give rise to Islamic State.
In Washington Saturday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki welcomed the approval of key cabinet members in Iraq.
“We congratulate the Iraqi people and their elected representatives in the Iraqi parliament on the selection of seven new cabinet ministers today. These ministers, including new Ministers of Defense, Finance and Interior, represent the diversity of Iraq, and complete an inclusive cabinet led by Prime Minister Abadi," Psaki said.
She called the development "another important step in the long-term campaign" to defeat Islamic State militants and "restore stability to Iraq."
A wave of car bombs in Baghdad late Friday killed at least 24 people. One of the attacks took place near a cafe in the Shi'ite neighborhood of Baladiyat.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Some information for this report comes from AP and AFP.