Thursday, May 24, 2007

PM Maliki announces Iraqi Cabinet changes

Iraqi Prime Minister announces Cabinet changes By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press WriterThu May 24, 7:21 AM ET Iraq's prime minister asked Parliament Thursday to approve six new Cabinet members to replace a group which resigned last month on the orders of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the government over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. The anti-American cleric went into hiding in Iran last February when the Baghdad security crackdown was launched. In Parliament, al-Maliki thanked al-Sadr for giving him the "authority to choose the ministers." He told the chamber, which will decide in a vote Sunday, that all six were independent "not because we have something against parties, but we were keen on their being independent because that was one of the conditions put for the selection." Al-Maliki was upset because there were not enough legislators to approve his choices on the spot, and was instead forced to delay the vote by three days. He admitted that he took a long time in choosing them, but said it was the result of the time needed to review the candidates history. Describing them as technocrats, he said none had any record of corruption. He also announced a future Cabinet reshuffle, but said he had not yet received any proposals for candidates from the parties that make up his government. "Some blocs want to change their ministers, and some ministers we want to change. It is not a shame to talk about a Cabinet reshuffle because we seek the best" people, al-Maliki told Parliament. The new six candidates included one woman, Khiloud Sami, who has been proposed for the post of state minister for provincial affairs. Although the religious affiliation of the six were not announced, all had traditionally Shiite names. The six are Sabah Rasoul for Health ministry, Ali al-Bahadli for Agriculture, Amir Abdul-Jabbar for Transportation, Thamir Jafar al-Zubaidi for the Civil Society Ministry, and Zuhair Mohammed Ali Sharba for the Tourism and Antiquity ministry.

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