- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

BAGHDAD — The Shi’ite-dominated parliament reached out yesterday to Sunni Arabs, approving four more to serve as government ministers as the Cabinet selection process drew to completion.

Insurgent violence, meanwhile, killed seven U.S. service members over the weekend as the total of those killed in attacks reached more than 300 since the majority of the Cabinet was sworn in April 28.

Parliament approved all six of the nominees placed before it yesterday by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But one of the four Sunnis, the man chosen as human rights minister, rejected the post on the grounds of tokenism, tarnishing the Shi’ite prime minister’s bid to include the disaffected minority thought to be driving Iraq’s deadly insurgency.

Once that position is filled, only one vice prime minister position will remain open. Mr. al-Jaafari said he hopes to name a woman to that job, filling out a Cabinet after more than three months of political wrangling.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in bombings in central Iraq, the U.S. command said. One soldier was killed and a second was wounded during an attack on a patrol near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. Two others died in an explosion near Khaldiyah, 75 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.

On Saturday, three U.S. Marines and a sailor were killed in fighting with insurgents in western Iraq, some of whom fought from inside a civilian hospital, the military said.

Only 115 of the 275 newly elected lawmakers were present for yesterday’s vote, with 112 of them voting in favor. The new ministers were expected to be sworn in within days.

When complete, the government will include 17 Shi’ite ministers, eight Kurds, six Sunnis and a Christian. Three deputy prime ministers also have been named — one each for the Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds, with the fourth held open for a woman.

The defense ministry went to Saadoun al-Duleimi, a former lieutenant colonel in Saddam Hussein’s General Security Directorate who left Iraq in 1984 and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia until Saddam’s fall in April 2003.

A moderate, he comes from a powerful Sunni tribe in Anbar province, the homeland of the insurgency.

The oil ministry was returned to Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, a Shi’ite who was accused of inexperience when he held the post in the first U.S.-picked Cabinet formed in the early months after the American-led invasion toppled Saddam.

Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shibli said he could not accept his appointment as human rights minister, which would have brought the total number of Sunnis in the Cabinet to seven.

“Concentrating on sectarian identities leads to divisions in the society and state, and for that reason, I respectfully decline the post,” Mr. al-Shibli said at a press conference.

His decision came in spite of persistent complaints from Sunnis that they are underrepresented in the new government.

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