BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki is planning to present his new government to Iraq's Council of Representatives on Saturday and to formalize his ministry appointments by Monday, U.S. and Iraqi sources said yesterday.
A day after announcing that Iraq's contentious political parties had agreed on a distribution of Cabinet posts, Iraqi politicians appeared to be coalescing around the names of several prominent candidates, the final step in the long-delayed formation of the government voted in five months ago.
Shiite independent Hussain al-Shahristani, a former nuclear physicist who lived for years in exile in Canada, will apparently be named oil minister.
"He had struggled against the previous regime, and he risked his life more than once," Adnan Ubaidi, editor in chief of Istiquma, said of al-Shahristani. The newspaper is a publication of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party.
"He is a patriotic Iraqi known for his honesty and integrity and good reputation," Ubaidi said. "He is also an independent, so I think he is theoretically the most qualified man for the Oil Ministry."
Current Oil Minister Ahmad Chalabi is a candidate to replace Interior Minister Bayan Jabr. Chalabi, a strong advocate of the war, briefly led the Governing Council in 2003. Chalabi was a key U.S. ally until the Bush administration accused him in 2004 of selling state secrets to Iran.
Jabr, a member of the leading Shiite bloc, is a candidate to lead the Finance Ministry. Sunni Arabs had accused Jabr of allowing Shiite militias and death squads to proliferate inside his police forces and vehemently opposed al-Maliki's efforts to keep him at the head of Interior. Ubaidi, a longtime associate of Jabr, said that he was one of the main sticking points during the past months of negotiations.
National security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a moderate Shiite, and former parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani, a moderate Sunni Arab, have been named as candidates for the Defense ministry, according to Ali Dabagh, a Fadila party leader and a member of the leading Shiite bloc. Al-Rubaie is also a candidate for the Interior Ministry, according to Amar Wajeeh, a Sunni Arab parliament member.
"This all needs to be approved by different parties," said Dabagh. "As of now, it is not yet finalized. It is a very sensitive situation."
While politicians in Baghdad appeared to be making progress, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets yesterday in the southern city Basra in the aftermath of a series of killings that has led to calls for the ouster of Basra Gov. Muhammad Misbah Waili and deployment of Iraqi army forces within the city. Officials from the Shiite oil hub said that at least 20 police officers and dozens of civilians have been killed in recent days.
The killings in Basra have occurred against a backdrop of increasing political tension between Basra's leading Shiite political parties, the SCIRI and al-Fadila Al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Virtue Party, which holds a one-seat majority on the local governorate council and the governor's office.
Violence continued elsewhere in Iraq with police reporting the discovery of eight bodies in six different Baghdad neighborhoods. Gunmen killed four people in Baghdad, including a prominent member of a Sunni Arab political party. A Baghdad police source also said that U.S. troops killed one person. U.S. and Iraqi officials said they had no additional information about the incident.
In Kirkuk, an unknown group released four hostages from the North Oil Co. who had been abducted this month near the northern oil center, according to police.
Solomon Moore writes for the Los Angeles Times.
Killed in Iraq
As of yesterday, at least 2,450 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.
Staff Sgt. Marion Flint Jr., 29, Baltimore, and Pfc. Grant A. Dampier, 25, Merrill, Wis.; killed Monday when an explosive detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad; assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team; Fort Carson, Colo. Related article, 1A
Capt. Shane R. Mahaffee, 36, Gurnee, Ill.; died Monday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of injuries suffered May 5 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Hillah; assigned to the Army Reserve's 489th Civil Affairs Battalion; Knoxville, Tenn.
Maj. Matthew W. Worrell, 34, Lewisville, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer Jamie D. Weeks, 47, Daleville, Ala.; killed Sunday when their helicopter was shot down in Yusufiyah; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne); Fort Campbell, Ky.
Lance Cpl. Jose S. Marin Dominguez Jr., 22, Liberal, Kan., and Lance Cpl. Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby, 21, Overbrook, Okla.; killed Sunday in combat in Anbar province; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force; Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Spc. Ronald W. Gebur, 23, Delavan, Ill.; killed Saturday when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad; assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division; Fort Hood, Texas.
Lance Cpl. Richard Z. James, 20, Seaford, Del.; killed Saturday in combat in Anbar province; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force; Camp Lejeune, N.C.