New Iraqi government approved, ending political stalemate

Lawmakers approved 70 percent of the 42-member cabinet, leaving the unfilled posts in the care of acting ministers who will replaced at a later date. The new ministers were sworn in after the vote.

Parliamentarians also voted for a government programme, which aims at fighting terrorism and attracting more foreign investment.

Decisions on some of the cabinet appointments were "postponed to consider female nominees" and examine the suitability of other candidates, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told parliament.

Al-Maliki will be an acting minister for three portfolios -- defence, interior and national security -- amid continued disagreement over who should fill these sensitive posts.

The new government leaves some ministers in place, including veteran Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who has been in office since the US-led invasion in 2003. Zebari also took temporary charge of the ministry of women's affairs.

For the first time since 2003, the government does not appear to include any women. Al-Maliki said he did not receive a single female nomination despite the fact he asked each political bloc to nominate women.

Female members of parliament objected to the all-male cabinet.

"We will vote (for the cabinet) because we do not want to punish the Iraqi people who waited for so long for this," said lawmaker Ala Talabani, who addressed parliament on behalf of female lawmakers.

"Women today feel that democracy was killed in Iraq due to discrimination," Talabani told parliament ahead of the vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Rafie al-Esawi became finance minister, while Abdul-Karim Eleibi was appointed oil minister.

Both former oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani and Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq became deputy prime ministers. Al-Shahristani is also acting minister of electricity.

Al-Mutlaq, a critic of al-Maliki, was banned earlier this year from running for parliament because of charges that he was a Baathist -- the party of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

On Saturday, lawmakers voted to lift a ban on al-Mutaq and two others from participating in the government because of his political background.

The three are members of former prime minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya List, which won the largest number of seats in the house but failed to achieve a majority.

The lifting of the ban was a condition made by Allawi's bloc for agreeing to a power-sharing deal last month that broke the political deadlock, which had paralysed the nation since elections March 7.

The new government will have to tackle a rising wave of violence, and other neglected legislative issues, including crumbling infrastructure.

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