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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Iraq 'finalises unity government'
Nouri Maliki
Mr Maliki will take the interior ministry temporarily, sources say
Iraq's PM-designate Nouri Maliki says the make-up of the cabinet has been finalised but the posts of interior and defence minister will be filled later.

Mr Maliki will present the cabinet for approval by parliament on Saturday.

Shias, Sunni Arabs and Kurds have been in dispute over the make-up of the unity government since elections in December, causing a power vacuum.

US and Iraqi officials have said the unity government is the country's best chance avoiding a full sectarian war.

The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance won most seats in parliament in Iraq's first full elections, held last December.

'Independents'

The Associated Press news agency quoted Mr Maliki as saying: "We decided on the names of the ministers and we will announce them... except for interior and defence ministries.

"Both will be acting ministers until we will choose the best ministers for those posts."

Iraqi MPs
Iraqi MPs have been in dispute since December's elections

The defence ministry runs the army while the interior ministry controls the police.

Officials said Mr Maliki, a Shia, would himself take the interior ministry temporarily while a Sunni politician would cover the defence ministry post.

Sources said the parties had given themselves a week to find compromise on the permanent posts.

Mr Maliki said the choices would be "well known as independents, honest, not loyal to any militia or the equivalent".

Interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, is reported to be staying on. Bayan Jabor, the current Shia interior minister, is said to have been given the finance portfolio.

Sources say nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shia, is to become oil minister. None of these appointments have been confirmed.

The government is the first to include the main Sunni Muslim factions, which had boycotted the interim elections and cabinet.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the hope is that by including them now, other Sunni factions which have taken up arms can be persuaded to join the political process.

A senior Sunni politician, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told AP his coalition would support Mr Maliki's cabinet choices.

The 275-member parliament - the Council of Representatives - will meet on Saturday to consider approving the cabinet.


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