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Iraqi Cabinet delay ended

October 18, 2014

Iraq's parliament has ended a six-week impasse by approving a Sunni Muslim as defense minister and a Shiite as interior minister. The more inclusive Cabinet could boost Iraq's fight against Islamist insurgents.

Armee Irak Soldaten Symbolbild
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Iraq's political factions on Saturday overcame a disabling political feud widely seen as a contributor to recent dramatic advances by the "Islamic State" (IS) extremists.

Parliament filled vacancies left in the Cabinet line-up when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took over on September 8. That change ended the eight-year rule of Nouri al-Maliki, who had faced Western pressure to quit for not reaching out to non-Shiites.

Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker from the IS-captured city of Mosul, was elected on Saturday with 173 votes, according to Iraqiya state television.

It said parliament approved Mohammed al-Ghabban with 197 votes for the post of interior minister. He belongs to the powerful Shiite Badr bloc which has its own militia.

The pair replace two candidates who were unsuccessfully proposed by al-Abadi.

Other appointees named Saturday included Shiite lawmaker Adel Fahd al-Shirshab as tourism minister and Kurdish lawmaker Bayan Nouri as women's ministry head.

Driving divisions

Former premier al-Maliki had held onto both the defense and interior minister posts after his re-election in 2010, fuelling concerns that he was monopolizing power and excluding Iraq's minority Sunnis.

Sunni discontent was widely seen as paralyzing governance and contributing to the IS group's advances across western and northern Iraq since June.

UNSC backing for Baghdad

The new Iraqi government was given further endorsement on Friday by the UN Security Council. It called on the international community to "expand" support for Iraqi government forces against the IS and "associated armed groups."

In its unanimous statement, the 15-member council condemned what it called the "vicious string of suicide, vehicle-borne and other attacks" carried out by the IS group on provinces surrounding Baghdad and car bombings in the capital itself.

On Friday, Iraqi government forces launched an offensive north of Tikrit, one of a series of mainly Sunni Arab towns north and west of Baghdad held by IS.

Iraqi troops have struggled to retake territory seized by the jihadists, despite air strikes by a US-led coalition.

ipj/nm (Reuters, AFP, AP)