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Iraqi defence minister predicts tough challenge

Iraqi defence minister predicts tough challenge
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Iraq’s almost-complete interim government has been sworn in and for some it was the second time around.

Kurdish politicians had demanded the inclusion of the word federalism, absent from the original oath taken last month. Parliament approved six new ministers on Sunday, with the oil ministry going to senior Shi’ite politician Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum. The proposed human rights minister Hasham al-Shibli turned down the job. He said he had been picked purely because he represented Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, and claimed he had not been consulted. Another Sunni, Saadoun al-Dulaimi, is Iraq’s new defence minister. He is a former army officer who fled to Saudia Arabia in the 1980s and opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime. Al-Dulaimi said security was the big priority. He also predicted the people would continue to suffer because Iraq had “become the crossroads for international terrorism.” His family originates in the western al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. The US military says an offensive there has killed 75 militants in the first 24 hours of the operation. A suicide car bomb at a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad has killed at least three people and wounded eight. It was just the latest in a series of bloody attacks that have killed about 300 people since the government was formed late last month.