Iraq parliament waves through Maliki as PM

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The Independent Online

Iraq's parliament approved Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his new government yesterday, nine months after an inconclusive election left politics in limbo and stalled investment to rebuild the country after years of war.

MPs voted Mr Maliki and a new team of ministers into office, elevating Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, and leaving in place Kurdish veteran Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Highlighting the ethnic and sectarian divisions in the war-ravaged country, parliament had to postpone the vote on Monday after last-minute factional disputes and horse-trading over posts delayed the process.

As Mr Maliki read out each of the new ministers' names, the Speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, scanned the raised hands in the chamber and said "approved by the majority". The Speaker did not ask for a show of hands from those opposing the candidate or abstaining from the vote.

In separate votes parliament approved three deputy prime ministers as well as other cabinet ministers and the government's programme. The government was then declared formed with Mr Maliki as the Prime Minister.

Mr Maliki acknowledged his ministerial list was not perfect. He said: "I do not say that this government... satisfies its citizens' aspirations, nor the political blocs', nor my ambition... because it is formed... in extraordinary circumstances.

"This is what we have and what we have could be better than what we had if we stand by our decisions."

The former prime minister Iyad Allawi, who failed to gain enough support for a majority after his cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc won the most seats, told the assembly his Sunni-backed coalition would participate fully.

"Iraqiya will play an active, productive and co-operative role," he told the session.

Two female MPs protested at the absence of women in the new cabinet. Mr Maliki has yet to decide on 11 positions, including Defence and Interior.

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