- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

[12:45 p.m.]

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq’s prime minister-designate said today the main stumbling blocks to forming a new Cabinet have been overcome and he expects to present his team to parliament for approval by the end of the week.

Nouri al-Maliki said representatives of the country’s political parties had agreed on what factions would hold the “main posts” but were still discussing the distribution of “a few” of them. Those included the ministries of oil, trade and transportation, he said.

The incoming prime minister declined to spell out the distribution of ministries, including key posts of interior, which controls police, and defense, which runs the army. U.S. and British officials have insisted those posts go to people without ties to sectarian militias, believed responsible for many of the revenge killings of Sunnis and Shiites.

“The direction we took, and which was agreed upon by the political groups, was that the two who will occupy these posts be independent and unaffiliated with a party or a militia,” he said at a news conference.

Mr. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he hoped to present the Cabinet to parliament by the end of the week. Parliament must approve each minister by a majority vote.

The challenge the new government will face in trying to reduce violence in Iraq was obvious in Tuesday’s police reports, with five Iraqis killed in sporadic attacks in Baghdad and 17 bodies found nationwide, including eight pulled from a river south of the capital.

The U.S. command also reported that an American soldier was killed Monday in a bombing in east Baghdad, raising to at least 2,423 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

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