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Middle east

Lawmakers to vote on al Maliki's cabinet choices

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-21

Iraqi lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a list of cabinet members submitted a day earlier by Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki (left), potentially ending nine months of political stalemate that followed inconclusive March elections.

AFP - Iraqi lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a list of cabinet ministers submitted by the premier, the parliament speaker said, potentially breaking a nine-month deadlock over power sharing.

"Parliament received the programme and the names. There will be a session after 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) tomorrow for voting on the new ministers," house speaker Osama al-Nujaifi told a news conference on Monday.

"Our desire is to build a strong government capable of solving the crisis of the country, and we will be proud of that," he said.

"I am here to thank the political parties who gave me their candidates' names," Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki told reporters, adding he had given "the names of the candidates for the ministries to the speaker of the parliament."

"The process of distributing the ministries was difficult, and forming a national unity government is a difficult job, because you have to find a place for each winner," Maliki said.

"Tomorrow, the names will be announced, and some names need to be studied," he said.

According to a parliamentary source, Maliki has only submitted names for 29 cabinet posts, or roughly 70 percent of the total.

Earlier in the day, politicians had said that as many as half of the ministerial positions were still undecided as party chiefs squabbled over allocations.

"The problem is that many political blocs are all asking for the same post at the same time. Because of this, there is still no agreement," Khaled al-Assadi, an MP in Maliki's coalition who is seen as close to the premier, said Monday morning.

"The three security ministries will not be presented today, and they may not present the deputy prime ministers either," Assadi said.

The political impasse has existed since elections in March, with a deadline looming on Saturday for a new government to be in place.

According to the Iraqi constitution, parliament must approve the names of the ministers as well as the government's programme.

Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish MP, said Monday that the pan-Kurdish alliance, which holds around 50 seats in the 325-member parliament, had not yet decided on who its ministers would be.

And he said the Kurdish bloc, key to the formation of the cabinet, would not take part in the government if Maliki did not approve deals the autonomous Kurdish region signed with oil companies without Baghdad's initial approval.

The contracts were signed in 2004 but the central government in Baghdad has refused to recognise them, primarily because they are based on profit-sharing rather than the per-barrel service fees it prefers.

Politicians had at the weekend said any cabinet proposed on Monday would not include the naming of new ministers of interior, defence and national security, meaning Maliki would take interim control of Iraq's security forces.

That is despite past criticism that the premier has steadily tightened his grip on power by grouping increasing responsibilities under the office of the prime minister.

Including Maliki's own position and that of his three expected deputy prime ministers, the cabinet will number 42, slightly larger than the previous one.

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, resulting in an impasse that is still being resolved.

A power-sharing deal last month finally broke the deadlock, with Maliki being named prime minister-designate on November 25 and given 30 days to name his government.

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 rest divided among smaller groupings.

Date created : 2010-12-20

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