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After delay, key security ministers appointed

Published June 9, 2006

BAGHDAD - Iraq's Parliament approved three key security officials Thursday, ending an impasse that had threatened Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's plan for Iraqis to gradually take over security from U.S. and other foreign troops.

Efforts to name the defense, interior and national security ministers had been snarled by squabbling among the Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties in the unity government that took office May 20. The frictions were fed by the surge in sectarian conflict in recent months.

The new appointments are considered crucial for Maliki's government to implement a plan that foresees Iraqi soldiers and police taking over responsibility for Iraq's security within 18 months. That would open the way for the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.

Iraq's new defense minister is Gen. Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim al-Mifarji, a Sunni Arab. Members of that formerly dominant minority are the backbone of the insurgency, and many people feel it is crucial to have Sunnis deeply involved in the new government to weaken support for the guerrillas.

The other two ministers came from the Shiite majority - Jawad al-Bolani as interior minister and Sherwan al-Waili as minister of state for national security.

Sunni Arabs demanded the Defense Ministry, which runs the military, to balance the Shiites' control of the Interior Ministry, which oversees police forces and some security services. The National Security Ministry runs Iraq's antiterror efforts and its war against corruption.

Despite the weeks of negotiations, the choices didn't meet universal approval.

A Sunni Arab from Anbar province, an area west of the capital where insurgents are active, complained that the new defense minister took part in military operations in the region.

"As I represent those who elected me in Anbar province, and especially in Fallujah, I'm here to express our rejection for Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim," said Sheik Khalil Jadou of Ramadi.

Mifarji, who is not affiliated with any Sunni Arab party, told the 275-member Parliament that he graduated from the Iraqi military academy in 1969 and was thrown out of the army and Saddam Hussein's Baath Party in 1991 after he criticized the invasion of Kuwait. He said that led to his conviction by a military court in 1994 and a seven-year prison sentence.

"All my properties were confiscated," he said. "In 2003, my only house was returned. Then I joined the new Iraqi army as the commander of operations room and then commander of military operations in western Iraq, and finally the commando units of the infantry."

Noting that he doesn't belong to any political party, Mifarji said that as defense minister, "I will work for all Iraqis and will not work according to my tribal, religious and ethnic background. I will be only an Iraqi and will spare no effort."

The new interior minister is an independent member of the biggest Shiite political bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance. He is an aeronautical engineering graduate of Baghdad's University of Technology and worked as an engineer in the Iraqi air force until 1999.

Waili is a member of the Iraqi Dawa Party, which is not related to the Dawa Party to which the prime minister belongs.

He was jailed after the Shiite uprising of 1991 in the southern city of Basra, which came after a U.S.-led alliance drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait.

He later served as head of the provincial council in the city of Nasiriyah, and then as undersecretary for public works. He had been an adviser for regional affairs in the National Security Ministry.

The new ministers

Sketches of Iraq's new interior, defense and national security ministers.

Defense Minister Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim al-Mifarji, 58, Sunni Arab, Iraqi army general. Not affiliated with any Sunni Arab party. Heavily supported by the Sunni Arab Accordance Front, the minority's main coalition in the government.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, 46, Shiite, aeronautical engineering graduate from Baghdad's University of Technology. Independent member of the dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Uniformly supported by all members of the Alliance.

Minister of State for National Security Sherwan al-Waili, 49, Shiite, graduate of Iraq's military school of engineering. A member of the Iraqi Dawa Party, which is not related to the Dawa Party to which the prime minister belongs.

Associated Press

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 06:34:05]

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