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Iraq approves new govt with Maliki as PM

Baghdad, December 21, 2010

Iraq's parliament approved Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and his new government on Tuesday, nine months after an inconclusive election left politics in limbo and delayed investments to rebuild the country after years of war.

Lawmakers voted into office Maliki and a new slate of ministers, elevating Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani to deputy prime minister for energy and leaving in place Kurdish
veteran Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.

Highlighting the ethnic and sectarian divides that pervade the war-ravaged country, parliament had to postpone the vote on Monday after last-minute factional disputes and political horse-trading over posts delayed the government's formation.   

In a speech to parliament before lawmakers approved his government plan, Maliki acknowledged the rough road Iraq's fledgling democracy took during the nine months of squabbling between political factions.

"I do not say that this government, with all its formations, satisfies its citizens' aspiration, nor the political blocs', nor my ambition, nor any other person's ambition, because it i s
formed ... in extraordinary circumstances," he told lawmakers.   

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who failed to gain enough support for a parliamentary majority after his cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc won the most seats, told lawmakers his Sunni-backed coalition would participate fully in the government.   

"We as the Iraqiya bloc declare our full support for this government," Allawi said. "Iraqiya will play an active, productive and cooperative role."   

Maliki has yet to decide on permanent choices for some positions, including sensitive security-related ministries such as defence and interior.

The prime minister promoted deputy oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi to minister and made prominent Sunni leader Rafie al-Esawi finance minister.

"The deal the parties worked out is rather elaborate but the critical thing is that they were able to get to this point through peaceful negotiations without any return to large-scale
violence," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.    

"That said, power-sharing deals like this one tend to be quite fragile and so the next few months will present a crucial test for the ... rival blocs."

International investors are watching developments in Iraq's energy sector with great interest as the country embarks on an ambitious programme to exploit its vast oil resources and rebuild its neglected and damaged infrastructure.   

While Shahristani was minister, the oil ministry reached a series of deals with oil majors that could boost Iraq's output capacity to 12 million barrels per day, rivalling global leader Saudi Arabia, from about 2.5 million barrels per day now.   

For international oil companies, Shahristani's continued  control over the oil sector will be seen as assurance that  contracts he agreed will be honoured in the absence of formal
guarantees, since Iraq still lacks a new hydrocarbons law. - Reuters




Tags: Iraq | Maliki | new government |

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