- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari has completed a list of Cabinet ministers and submitted it to the president, ending months of haggling over the makeup of Iraq’s post-Saddam Hussein government.

An aide to Mr. al-Jaafari told The Washington Times that the dominant Shi’ite coalition led by the prime minister will hold roughly half of the 33 posts. Caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will not be part of the Cabinet, but Ahmed Chalabi, a controversial figure since before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, will have a major post.

“There are no more negotiations,” said Bashar al-Naher. “The list has been presented to President [Jalal] Talabani.”

Mr. al-Naher said Mr. al-Jaafari would formally announce the names of the Cabinet ministers today and that Mr. Talabani was expected to present the list to the National Assembly for approval.

“All that is a formality, really,” said the aide, confirming that most of the appointments were concluded after long days and nights of difficult negotiations among the political parties that dominate the assembly.

However, a spokesman for Mr. Talabani said the president had not yet received the list and cautioned there still could be some eleventh-hour changes. “Tomorrow evening everything will be clear,” he said in a phone call from Baghdad.

Hopes for a new government have been dashed several times since the Jan. 30 elections as political players jostled for power and leaders tried to ensure that the Sunnis and other minorities got a voice in the government.

A source close to the negotiations said Mr. Chalabi, a Shi’ite former exile who rose to and fell from U.S. grace since the invasion, would become one of three deputy prime ministers.

The other deputy prime minister posts would go to a Sunni Arab and to a Kurd, the source said. Nine ministries will be led by Kurds, six by Sunnis, one by a Christian and one by a member of the Turkoman minority — incorporating all of Iraq’s main ethnic and religious groups — he said.

The new minister of defense is expected to be Sadoon al Duleimi, a Sunni from the troubled Ramadi area; Ali Allawi (a distant relative of the outgoing prime minister) will be the new minister of finance; Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, will retain the post; and the Interior Ministry will be led by Bayan Jabor, a member of the Shi’ite alliance.

Barham Saleh, a Kurd serving as deputy prime minister, is expected to lead the Planning Ministry, the source said. But he would not say who had been chosen to lead the key Oil Ministry, noting that “a few names” had been mentioned.

“The major negotiations are complete, [but] we will have to figure out some minor things. They may create a minor ministry” to achieve political peace, he said.

Iyad Allawi, who reportedly had demanded a top post within the presidency council or to remain as prime minister, will not be part of the new lineup, but party officials still disagree about whether representatives from his Iraqi List party will get key positions.

“The Allawi group is not sharing [in the government] as a result of the unrealistic requests that they made, and that neither the Kurds nor us could accommodate,” said a member of the Shi’ite bloc.

“Their list was too unrealistic; they wanted something like nine ministries, and they wouldn’t climb down,” the member said. “They say they are going to play the role of a peaceful parliamentary opposition.”

But the source, who has followed the talks closely, said Mr. Allawi may yet win a post.

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