Maliki fills power, trade, other Iraq cabinet jobs

Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:46pm EST
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament approved eight new ministers on Sunday but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has yet to decide who will hold sensitive security posts in the cabinet such as defense and interior.

Maliki's new government was approved in late December after nine months of political wrangling but he left 10 cabinet posts with acting leaders, keeping the Defense Ministry, which runs the army, Interior, which controls the police, and National Security for himself temporarily.

Iraq is trying to solidify its nascent democracy in the face of a stubborn insurgency nearly eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, before U.S. troops complete their withdrawal by year's end.

Parliament approved new electricity and trade ministers, two key positions covering provision of basic services and food, the focus of recent protests in Baghdad and the provinces.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden congratulated Maliki on the approval of the ministers during a call on Sunday, the White House said in a statement.

"The vice president commended the prime minister for his role in consolidating Iraq's democratic progress, and encouraged the prompt completion of the final steps for government formation, including the appointment of security ministers and the establishment of the National Council for Higher Policies," the statement said.

The two men also discussed events in Egypt, it said.

The new power minister, Raad Shallal, has worked for the ministry since 1987 and holds a masters degree in engineering.

Intermittent electricity is one of Iraqis' biggest gripes.   Continued...