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Iraq’s parliament approves new government

Haider al-Abadi named Iraq’s new prime minister; after political machinations, all but two Cabinet posts filled

Iraq's parliament has officially named Haider al-Abadi as the country's new prime minister and approved most of his proposed cabinet, as the country battles to take back territory lost to the Islamic State group.

Legislators on Monday approved all of the candidates proposed for Iraq's new government, with the exception of two posts, the defense and interior ministers. Abadi requested an additional week to name them.

Adel Abdel Mehdi from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq was named oil minister while Ibrahim Jafaari, a former premier, was named foreign minister. Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, was named finance minister.

Abadi's deputy prime ministers are Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd and Iraq’s only post–Saddam Hussein foreign minister, Saleh Mutlaq, a secular Sunni Muslim who served in the same position in the last government, and Baha Arraji, a Shia Islamist and former lawmaker.

The parliament approved for the ceremonial posts of vice presidents the outgoing prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, like Abadi from the Shia Islamist Dawa party; former premier, Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia; and the outgoing parliament speaker, Usama al-Nujaifi. The three have been seen as political rivals.

The U.S. and other countries have been pushing for a more representative government that will ease anger among Sunnis, who felt marginalized by Maliki's administration, helping fuel the dramatic sweep by the Islamic State armed group over much of northern and western Iraq since June.

President Barack Obama telephoned Abadi to discuss Washington’s commitment to help fight the Islamic State and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the formation of a new government as "a major milestone" for Iraq.

"Overcoming the obstacle of ethnic and sectarian divides, the Iraqi parliament approved a new and inclusive government, one that has the potential to unite all of Iraq’s diverse communities for a strong Iraq, a united Iraq, and to give those communities the chance to build the future that all Iraqis desire and deserve," Kerry said at the State Department.

He said he would travel to the Middle East on Tuesday "to build the broadest possible coalition of partners around the globe to confront, degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL," an acronym for another name for the Islamic State.

Speaking before parliament, Abadi vowed to "back the military operations in all the areas of confrontation against the armed gangs and the forces of terrorism and ensuring their continuation till victory is achieved."

Abadi also pledged to resolve disputes with the country's autonomous Kurdish region.

"My government is committed to solve all suspended issues with the Kurdistan regional government," he said in a speech outlining his proposed government program.

The Kurdish political bloc had debated for hours on Monday whether or not to participate in the government as the session began, and no Kurds had initially been present at the meeting aside from President Fuad Masum.

After the parliament session began, the Kurdish bloc walked in and registered their names.

The Kurdish region and Baghdad are at odds over various long-running disputes on issues including territory and the country's vast oil and gas resources.

Relations between the two sides worsened considerably this year over what the Kurds said were late and insufficient payments by Baghdad to the region, which saw salaries in Kurdistan go unpaid.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. fighter jets, are fighting in Iraq's north to retake towns captured by the Islamic State.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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