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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Iraqi MPs approve partial cabinet
MP Lamia Abed Khadouri's badge on her doorstep
An MP was killed this week, the first in the new parliament
MPs in Iraq have approved a new government by a large majority despite failure to agree on several top posts.

Seven posts were left vacant, including oil and defence, but Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari promised that they would be filled very soon.

The government's formation has been held up for months, partly over how to draw in the Sunni minority.

Among the names on the new list is Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi, a one-time US favourite who fell from grace.

15 August: Draft constitution (six-month extension possible)
15 October: Referendum on constitution
By 15 December: Elections for government (or, if constitution is rejected, a new assembly)
31 December: Constitutional government takes power

Mr Jaafari was under huge pressure to produce a government and, in the end, it had to be a flawed result, the BBC's Jim Muir says.

A senior Sunni leader, Vice-President Gazi Yawar, said that there were not enough Sunnis in the cabinet.

"It's simple. If the Shia fail to satisfy the Sunni Arabs... then I think the Sunnis might simply withdraw their candidates [from the government]," he said.

US President George W Bush welcomed the announcement, saying the government would represent the "unity and diversity" of Iraq.

As well as providing security and services, he noted that among its tasks was the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq.

The European Union said Iraq now had its "first elected government... for a number of decades".

The new government is a series of "firsts" for Iraq:

  • the first democratically elected government for half a century
  • the first government dominated by the Shia majority rather than the Sunni minority
  • the first government in which the Kurds have around a quarter of the top posts.

Post for Chalabi

The interim National Assembly approved the cabinet list by 180 votes to five, with 90 MPs absent from the chamber.

Ahmed Chalabi
1945 Born in Baghdad
1956 Leaves Iraq
1992 Founds Iraqi National Congress (INC)
1995 INC offensive against Iraqi army fails
1996 Flees Iraq after INC base overrun by troops
2003 Returns to Iraq
2003 Becomes leading member of Iraqi Governing Council (IGC)
2004 Arrest warrant issued amid accusations - later dropped - of counterfeiting
2005 Appointed a deputy prime minister

Mr Jaafari said he had worked "night and day" to form a government which would "focus on action and reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of Iraqi society".

As well as the oil and defence portfolios, the ministries for electricity, industry and human rights, and two deputy prime minister's posts, have not been filled.

Mr Jaafari will temporarily head the defence ministry while Mr Chalabi will act as oil minister.

Mr Chalabi will also take one of the deputy prime minister's posts.

All posts must be filled by 7 May, the constitutional deadline set for forming the government.

By an odd twist of fate, the new government has been born on the 68th birthday of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Sunni voice

The vacancies reflect the difficulties which have bedevilled and delayed the cabinet's formation, our correspondent says - particularly the issue of how to bring Sunni representatives into government.

We need the right person in the right position regardless of... background
Anas, Damascus, Syria

Sunnis, who provided the bedrock of support for Saddam Hussein's ousted government, largely boycotted the January election and are thus under-represented in the National Assembly.

However, they were offered a higher proportion of cabinet posts than their seats in parliament warranted in a bid to correct the imbalance.

Sunni negotiators have complained that their terms for participation in the cabinet have not been met.

Our correspondent adds that there was also disagreement among the Shia factions over the oil portfolio, a vital one in oil-rich Iraq, which had been expected to go to a Shia.

Why it took so long to form Iraq's new government

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