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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
21 May 2006

IRAQ: Mixed reaction to new government

BAGHDAD, 21 May 2006 (IRIN) - Many Iraqis on Sunday expressed hope that the newly appointed Iraqi government would be able to contain sectarian violence and improve poor services, but others are pessimistic.

"I think that this government will be a success because it represents all Iraqi segments and I'm sure that we are going to have a real change in our life." said Salam Hamid, 41, a Shi’ite employee with in the Ministry of Oil.

"We are going to face hard days and this is normal but we have to be patient and support this government to work properly," he added.

On Saturday, the 275-member parliament approved each of the 39 cabinet ministers proposed by the incoming Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the new national government, also a Shi’ite, and took their oath of office during a nationally televised session in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

“This is a government of national unity that brings together the main parties [majority Shi’ite, Kurds and minority Sunnis], which themselves represent Iraq's three principal communities. In that sense it is representative,” said Joost Hiltermann an Iraq analyst for the International Crisis Group.

“But while a national unity government is a necessary step in Iraq's stabilization, the logic that informed its composition contains an inherent risk: the allotment of seats by community suggests an alarming trend toward prioritizing communal identities over national ones at a time when the fate of the nation is already in question. What Iraq lacks is political parties with cross-communal national programmes,” he added.

"We want this government to work for Iraqis not for themselves or for a specific sect," said Ahmed Abdu-Razaq, a Sunni professor at the University of Baghdad.

"This government has to give up sectarianism, disband all militias and find independent ministers for interior and defense ministries," he added.

Meanwhile, the appointments were welcomed by the US government. "This broadly representative unity government offers a new opportunity for progress in Iraq," George Bush said in a White House statement.

The formation of the national unity government is only the first step in overcoming violence, according to Hiltermann. “Two other critical steps will be the constitutional review and the integration of all of Iraq's security forces,” he added.

However, two key posts have not been filled due to disagreements. They are of the Ministry of interior and defence. Al-Maliki had to temporarily fill the posts heading the ministries controlling Iraq's army and police forces.

The prime minister himself is holding the interior ministry while his deputy Salam al-Zubaie is holding defence.

“Hopefully, they will be filled within a week. Security is the key question now: What kind of response will there be to the insurgency , and how will the new government tackle crime and seek to overcome lawlessness?” the ICG analyst said.

Commenting on the appointment of al-Maliki, over his predecessor, Ibrahim al Jaffari, who was bitterly opposed by Sunnis Hiltermann said:

“Both Sunni Arab parties have agreed to go along with the Maliki government. But much will depend on the new government's response to the insurgency. If we are going to see more reprisal killings of Sunni Arabs, then things may fall further apart,” the analyst warned.

"We don't care for names as much as we care for the services they will offer," said Eman Ali, 42, housewife." We need a strong government to develop Iraq's infrastructure and specially electricity as the summer heat approaches," she added.

One of the new government's programmes calls for the restoration of Iraqi infrastructure, including details for an entire reconstruction plan for the country.

The Cabinet nominations took months of negotiations after Iraq elected a new parliament last December. The new 40-member Cabinet, including the prime minister, is Iraq's first constitutional government since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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