Iraq’s interim parliament has approved six new ministers, after months of bickering between competing factions. The oil minister is a respected Shi’ite politician, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum. The defence portfolio has gone to a Sunni Arab, the former military officer Saadoun al-Dulaimi, who fled Iraq in the 1980s and actively opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Three months after the national elections, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari thought he had finally filled the cabinet. But his proposed human rights minister Hashim al-Shibli has said he is turning down the job.
Al-Shibli said he had only been nominated because he was a Sunni and had not been consulted by anyone over it. He said he was “completely against sectarianism.”
While the politicians have struggled to form a government, insurgent violence has increased. This morning a suicide car bomber killed two police officers and two civilians at a checkpoint in southern Baghdad. US Marines say they have killed 75 insurgents in the first 24 hours of an offensive in the western Anbar province. Meanwhile, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, the leader of Australia’s 300,000 Muslims, has travelled to Iraq, to try to obtain the release of Douglas Wood. Militants holding the Australian engineer hostage have threatened to kill him if Canberra does not withdraw its troops from Iraq by Tuesday morning.