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[casi] Iraq council set to appoint 25-strong cabinet - Financial Times

Iraq council set to appoint 25-strong cabinet
By Gareth Smyth in Baghdad
Published: August 28 2003 20:55 | Last Updated: August 28 2003 20:55

Financial Times

Iraq's US-appointed governing council is on the verge of appointing a
cabinet of 25 ministers based on a quota system among the country's diverse
sectarian groups.

But after six weeks of discussion to reach consensus, council members say
they have also assessed competence and struck careful balances between
political groups. Two of the four most important ministries will go to Shia
Muslims, one to an Arab Sunni Muslim and one to a Kurd.

Hoshyar Zebari, a leading member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
and relative by marriage of its leader Masoud Barzani, is set to become
Iraq's first Kurdish foreign minister.

"This will send a clear message that the Kurds are no longer second-class
citizens in Iraq," said a senior official in the rival Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK).

Mr Zebari, who grew up in the mainly Arab city of Mosul in northern Iraq,
is fluent in Arabic and English and an accomplished media performer.

Muther Shawqat, scheduled to become finance minister, is a Sunni Muslim
allied to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmad Chalabi, the
former banker admired by senior figures in the Pentagon.

Neither of the Shia proposed for senior ministries is from the religious
Shia parties.

Nouri Badran, the likely interior minister, is a native of Basra, a former
Iraqi diplomat and associate of Iyad Allawi, leader of the secular Wifaq
(Accord) party.

Thamer Ghadhban, a second Shia, is director-general of the oil ministry.
His appointment as oil minister would reflect gentle pressure from Paul
Bremer, the chief US administrator, who sees him as a technocrat whose
30-year experience in the state-run sector would help meet the challenges
of long-term underinvestment and recent sabotage.

Members of the council see the appointment of ministers as an important
step toward gaining legitimacy inside Iraq and towards weakening the US
hold on administration. Many of Iraq's would-be political elite have
returned from exile since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and are barely
known inside the country.

As a whole, the 25 ministries will be allocated 13 to Shia, five to Arab
Sunni, five to Kurds, one to a Turkoman and one to a Christian.

Mahdi al-Hafaa, a close associate of Adnan Pachachi, a member of the
governing council and a former Iraq foreign minister, is likely to be
minister of planning.

Three portfolios will go to members of the PUK. Among them, Latif Rashid, a
London-based engineer with experience in Saudi water projects, is set to be
minister of irrigation.

The ministers will answer directly to the 25-strong governing council and
there will be no prime minister.

So far, the council's visible efforts have been international, with a
delegation returning this week from Jordan, the Arab Emirates, Egypt,
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Jaaferi, the council's president, said that meetings with ministers
abroad had conferred "de facto recognition" of the council.

He said the council had received invitations from other countries including
Turkey, Iran and Germany, and was hoping to attend the Arab foreign
ministers' meeting that opens in Cairo on September 9.

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