Iraqis Finally Form a Government; Five 'Caretaker' Ministries Signal More Battles for New Democracy

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Byline: Sharon Behn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Iraq established its first democratically elected government in five decades yesterday after months of political wrangling and growing street violence and assassinations.

Yet Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was forced to leave five key ministries in the hands of "caretaker" ministers, indicating that the battle for influence in the new Cabinet is not over.

Mr. al-Jaafari held his first meeting with the government leaders yesterday, calling for each minister to have a program to lead the country forward as soon as possible.

"He would like to announce this program in the session of the National Assembly next week," said Jassim Msawil, speaking from the prime minister's office in Baghdad.

One Shi'ite close to the negotiations blamed the inability to complete the government on a struggle among Sunni leaders as to who would best represent them and whether they should join the political process at all.

The leading Shi'ite alliance led by Mr. al-Jaafari sought to smooth over arguments by allotting each political faction roughly one Cabinet post for every 10 seats in the assembly, the source said.

Thus, the Kurds, who have 75 seats in the assembly, won seven portfolios plus the presidency and a deputy prime minister post. The Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance, which holds 175 seats, received 17 portfolios.

The Sunni party led by former President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer won only five seats in the assembly, but Sunnis were handed four posts in an attempt to draw them into the political process. In addition, Mr. al-Yawer was named as one of two vice presidents and Hajim al-Hassani will serve as speaker.

Even so, some Sunni leaders were unhappy with the Cabinet layout.

"What did we get? The Ministry of Culture, but everyone knows there's no culture in this country torn by violence. The Ministry of Tourism. But what tourism?" said Mudhar Shawkat, a Sunni member of the assembly, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

The party led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, won 40 seats but will not participate in the new government. The faction is expected to serve as an opposition party in the assembly while preparing for the next round of elections.

Controversial politician Ahmed Chalabi, who has been appointed deputy prime minister, was asked to temporarily stand in as minister of oil. …